The Write Stuff
The increasing needs standardizing education for grief counselors ensuring the competence and ethical mandate with loss-related issues becomes more compelling when we look toward licensing and “domain-specific” work in thanatology, the scientific study of death and the practices associated with it, including the study of the needs of the terminally ill and their families. (Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, 2012) The disparity is problematic for hospice counselors expected to provide competent quality care to terminally ill patients (Friedrich, 2015, Harrawood, Doughty, &Wilde, 2011; Daneker, 2006) Traditionally, counseling education consists of evidence-based approaches helping patients cope with new life challenges and must include end of life training in order to be effective in their client care.
Approximately 1 in 3 deaths reported in the United States in 2014 were under hospice care (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization ([NHPCO], 2015) Along with the increase expected in clients, ([NHPCO], 2015) career opportunities for counselors will also be expected without requiring training and proper education or licensing. This does not serve our clients or the counselors that will be employed. The reports state that counselors working with the terminally ill will face discussions, prepare client meals, Listen to life stories and should be ready to offer anxiety coping mechanisms, offer respite and provide bereavement resources for family members ([NHPCO], 2015). Grief and bereavement authors also recommend that counselors receive education and death competence education so that they are competent (Gamino & Ritter, 2010; 2009). Comprehension to “practice within boundaries,” understanding how to protect their clients and their families from harm (ACA Code of Ethics 2016), such as unfamiliarity of clients end of life needs.
Counselors should understand how to deal with their mortality issues that might arise (Friedrich, 2015; Duba &Magenta, 2008), death anxiety levels (Jonasen & OBeirne, 2016; Harrawood, Doughty & Wilde, 2011; Thompson, Alston & Holbert, 2008), and their roles in this atmosphere (Davis et al. 2012; Thompson et al., 2001) In order to continue being effective in this position counselors may want to share their experiences (Daneker, 2006) Gambino and Ritter (2009) suggest that counselors seek supervision, regarding questions, skills and techniques necessary to better assist the dying population.
The Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC, 2016) a nonprofit organization, focused on dying, death, and bereavement recommends the study of thanatology of master knowledge of these topics. Harwood, Doughty &Wilde, did a qualitative analysis and illustrated that participants completing courses in death education not only increased their basic understanding of this concept but equally reduced the fear of the concept of mortality (2011). Death and dying experts argue what the level of training should be, but all believe training requirements should exist for minimum qualifying education when working with the terminally ill and the dying.
Although it is clear to everyone that education is necessary for all supervisors, and counselors who work with the dying population to date no studies were found addressing what should be in place or previous experiences to guide those in need of more information. This purposed study is designed to explore and understand the lived experiences of counseling professionals in the hospice environment.
Statement of the Problem
• Minimal research documentation on the subject of death, dying education or training for counselors (Ober, Granello & Wheaton, 2012 ; Gamino &Ritter, 2009; Freeman & Ward, 1998)
• There are no standards for preparation for counselors in assisting clients, and their families with a terminal illness (Davis et al., 2012; Hunt &Rosenthal, 200)
• Lack of training for death and dying preparation increases death anxiety (Harrawood, Doughty & Wilde, 2011) and lowers the counselor’s effectiveness assessing client and families needs at the end of life stages (Gamino & Ritter, 2009)
• No standard of competence to give the counselors basic end of life skills, comprehend their roles, understand the terminology, ethics, or their role toward client and family in the final-end of life moments.
• Death experts believe that death and dying competencies are taught by Supervisors (Gamino & Ritter, 2009) but without research, basic standards and education requirements we know little about the preparedness of the Supervisors to guide the staff. Without precise knowledge of hospice counselors’ experiences, future counselors, counselor educators, and supervisors are unable to normalize experiences or gain understanding in what that entails. Harrawood, Doughty, and Wilde stated that counseling professionals regularly provide services that include counseling without understanding what that role requires (2011).