Exploring the Psychological Aspects of Palliative Care: Lessons Learned from an Interdisciplinary Seminar of Experts

Keri O. Brenner, Leah B. Rosenberg*, Margaret A. Cramer, Juliet C. Jacobsen, Alison J. Applebaum, Susan D. Block, David B. Doolittle, Areej El-Jawahri, Linda L. Emanuel, Joseph A. Greer, Alfred S. Margulies, Jessica Logeman, Simone P. Rinaldi, Christine S. Ritchie, Gary M. Rodin, Maria Sirois, Elise C. Tarbi, Jennifer S. Temel, Vicki A. Jackson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Palliative care has been shown to help patients live well with serious illness, but the specific psychological factors that contribute to this benefit remain investigational. Although support of patient coping has emerged as a likely factor, it is unclear how palliative care helps patients to cope with serious illness. The therapeutic relationship has been proposed as a key element in beneficial patient outcomes, possibly undergirding effective patient and family coping. Understanding the distress of our patients with psychological depth requires the input of varied clinicians and thinkers. The complex conceptual model we developed draws upon the contributions of medicine, nursing, psychology, spiritual care, and social work disciplines. To elucidate these issues, we convened an interdisciplinary seminar of content experts to explore the psychological components of palliative care practice. "Healing Beyond the Cure: Exploring the Psychodynamic Aspects of Palliative Care"was held in May 2019 at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Over two days, the working group explored these essential elements of successful palliative care encounters through lecture and open discussion. This special report describes the key psychological aspects of palliative care that we believe underlie optimal adaptive coping in palliative care patients. We also outline key areas for further development in palliative care research, education, and clinical practice. The discussion held at this meeting became the basis for a planned series of articles on the psychological elements of palliative care that will be published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine on a monthly basis during the fall and winter of 2021-2022.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1274-1279
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • communication
  • provider resiliency
  • psychological issues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Nursing(all)


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