Working at the End of Life: Providing Clinically Based Psychosocial Care

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Social workers who provide end-of-life care do not always see themselves as clinicians. This paper identifies what is clinical in work with the dying. Social workers routinely elicit sources of cultural and psychological ways of coping, tolerate difficult and painful affects, and balance hope with compassion. They work in multidisciplinary teams and on every level (individual, family, and systemically) to avoid splitting or blame. Further, dying is a relational event. Social workers who work with the dying often stand in the most intimate spaces and therefore use themselves intersubjectively. This work requires considerable courage and self-care.

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