Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"The Standard of Care Is the Provider of Care"

When I write about what it takes to be an effective grief care provider I come back again and again to the above statement. When I train people to be grief counselors I view this as covering three tracks.
(1) Who am I as a person who has had losses and has grieved them and knows that somewhere inside there still is material which can be brought to the surface by external cues and signals -- words, sounds, sights, smells, and touch. These are my "Cowbells" and they are vulnerable to recall into my conscious awareness at anytime and drown out whoever I am speaking with. Therefore, I must develop a keen sense of this material and engage in some processing in order to limit their sudden surging into the space between myself and clients.

I have found that strong knowledge of what grief is and the range of behaviors we can expect from grieving people, as well as a good repertoire of intervention skills to be absolutely necessary but must be accompanied by a clarity of my own countertransference material associated with grief. The knowledge and skills will be partially or not used at all when the "Cowbells" ring and limit my availability. The standard of care truly is the provider of that care.
(2) What to expect from grieving people is a critical part of the training. Here we give the trainees not only the origin and functions of human grief but also the typical and atypical variations of grieving behaviors.
(3) How to help grieving people is the other area of focus. There are several ways to organize the learning of intervention skills. Many students and trainees want to go here first without a grounding in why and how we grieve and why it is more comfortable for them to work with the death of an older person versus a young mother or . . . a child!

We will talk more about the complexities and dynamics of human grief -- its variations and changing nature --  in our next blog.


  1. Shep,

    How wonderful you pay so much attention to our own care, because we have also suffered our own losses. We share the same philosophy because when I do my seminar "The Eleven Principles of Transformation" Level I is to go through our own losses...people cannot be trained as facilitators unless they process their own grief. Many people want to avoid confronting it...but how can we help others if do not help ourselves? I wish you a beautiful day!

  2. Thanks for your comments, Ligia. I have just completed the alpha year of a training program with psychologists in our practice and will be inviting other mental health professionals who wish to become skilled in working with grieving people to join us this fall. I base my training on the same principles that "Helping Grieving People" is based on -- self-care, knowledge and skills.

    I am so happy to hear that the self awareness dimension is included in your training. We aim to prepare people for the ADEC certification program; and will have our program approved for CEU's in the several mental health specialities.
    All my best wishes Ligia