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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

To alleviate end-of-life suffering: A phenomenological/transpersonal study
by Bench, Cheryl Ann, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014, 230; 3644386
Abstract (Summary)

In our death denying culture (Becker, 1973; Kearney, 2000), reaching the end of life often entails a process that includes not only physical, but psychological, social, emotional and spiritual suffering. Unaddressed, these may leave patients and family members with related residual trauma surrounding death experiences. In an attempt to seek ways of alleviating such suffering, this study explores the use of symbolic and guided imagery with dying patients. Imagery work often taps into the wisdom of the unconscious mind (Naparstek, 1994), that seems to know what the patient needs in the moment. Despite the increasing use of guided imagery, there is a lack of literature investigating its use in end-of-life care.

A phenomenological research method is used to understand the patient's lived experiences and their meanings. In addition, a transpersonal research methodological approach was designed to include shared experiences that offer "additional ways of knowing." This second method provides information from the participant-researcher, as certain patients were unable to articulate their experience. Transpersonal research methods allow an extension beyond the usual limits of ego and personality, acknowledging a deeper soul connection, taking into consideration new scientific findings on nonlocality or "signal-less field of interconnected consciousness." This research indicates that the researcher's and patient's unconscious can collaborate for the benefit of the patient.

Findings from 12 hospice patient pilot and case studies were reported, showing the following results: 1. recognition of meaningful symbolic imagery as a comforting, value-based, way to express the end-of-life review; 2. deep relaxation, comfort, calming and connection with the deeper self or psyche; 3. acceptance of mortality; 4. release from physical symptoms and focus on physicality; and 5. connection with a transcendent or spiritual reality or experience.

The use of guided imagery with dying patients and families offers an additional method of depth psychological practice to address the various aspects of being or "wholeness." Presently, medicine is seeking to become more "person-oriented" rather than "disease-specific"; hence, imagery work is personal and meaningful. Additional research exploring the benefits possible from this approach for family members in an effort to add value to the shared dying experience of the family group in end-of-life care is indicated.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Katsky, Patricia
Commitee: Plummer, Susan, Sloan, Lisa
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Depth Psychotherapy
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Public health, Individual & family studies, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Guided-imagery, Mandalas, Residual trauma, Shared death experience, Transpersonal, Unconscious collaboration, Wholeness
Publication Number: 3644386
ISBN: 978-1-321-32555-3
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