Psychological Dimensions of Palliative Care Consultation: Approaches to Seriously Ill Patients at the End of Life

Leah B. Rosenberg*, Anne K. Fishel, Rebecca Harley, Theodore A. Stern, Linda Emanuel, Jonah N. Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mental health clinicians often hear seriously ill patients ask the unanswerable: Why did this happen? What is the meaning of my suffering? In the inpatient setting, general medical ward, or oncology unit, patients are confronted with their mortality in new, urgent ways. Palliative medicine, or the specialized, comprehensive care of patients facing a life-limiting illness, occupies a unique and liminal space. Although often practiced by clinicians with non–mental health training backgrounds, there exists ample psychological content to be explored in the palliative care encounter. In this article, we present the case of a husband and international businessperson who experienced terminal complications from an advanced stage lung cancer. His illness was not responsive to multiple cancer-directed treatments, and he developed respiratory failure requiring high levels of supplemental oxygen support, from which he was unable to wean. Palliative care consultation was sought with the multiple objectives of ameliorating his severe death anxiety and persistent dyspnea as well as assisting in the clarification of his end-of-life wishes. Our goal with this case presentation and related discussion is to introduce the psychological aspects of palliative medicine to psychiatrists and psychotherapists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22ct14391
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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