Opportunities for Psychologists in Palliative Care: Working With Patients and Families Across the Disease Continuum

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Abstract

Interdisciplinary palliative care services have been rapidly expanding in health care settings over the past 10 years, particularly through the establishment of interdisciplinary palliative care teams. Relatively few of these teams formally include psychologists, although their skills of enhancing patients’ and families’ well-being and lessening suffering make an enormous contribution to the care provided. In this article, we define palliative care in broad terms, distinguishing it from hospice and end-of-life care. Using a case-based approach, we then explore the contribution of psychologists to the patient- and family-centered approach espoused by palliative care, including the knowledge, skills, and self-awareness needed to work effectively with these very ill patients and their families. We close with a call to action to better train and integrate psychologists into the rapidly growing field of palliative care.

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