Advertising and Marketing Psychology Business Psychology Clinical Psychology Criminal Psychology Death and Dying Psychology P S Y C H O L O G Y I N A C T I O N

Family Psychology Media Psychology

Performance Psychology Rehabilitation Psychology

School Psychology Sports Psychology


By Patricia Waldygo Anne S. Walters, PhD, ABPP, Consultant


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Introduction: What Is Psychology? .............................. 6 Chapter 1: Becoming a Psychologist Who Works with Death and Dying . ............................ 10 Chapter 2: History and Development of the Field .... 26 Chapter 3: Common and Unusual Issues ................. 42 Chapter 4: How Psychology Helps . .......................... 58 Chapter 5: Takeaways for Everyday Life ................. 74 Series Glossary of Key Terms ...................................... 90 Further Reading & Internet Resources ...................... 93 Index . ............................................................................. 94 Author’s Biography and Credits ................................. 96 KEY I CONS TO LOOK FOR : Words to Understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase readers’ understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills. Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Text-Dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there. Research Projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis. Series Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field.

What Is Psychology? When we look up the meaning of the word psychology , we learn that it comes from two Greek words—“psyche,” which means “mind,” and “logia,” which means “the study of.” Hence, psychology is “the study of the mind.” (Merriam-Webster.com) Essentially, psychology aims to study and better understand emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, with the goal of benefiting society. Those who choose to study psychology generally have a strong urge to help others, though the definition of “others” can vary across concentric circles of influence, from the individual to the family and then on to broader systems such as a school, neighborhood, or society. That urge to help and understand people and their behavior is perhaps the most basic motivator that leads an individual to want to pursue the study of psychology. Some describe psychology as a “hub science” to depict the way that it links to the social sciences, the natural sciences, medicine, and the humanities. In university settings, however, psychology is considered a social science. Social sciences deal with the study of human behavior in its social and cultural aspects. They include fields such as anthropology, sociology, political science, history, education, and economics. These fields are certainly diverse, and yet one can see the commonality: these disciplines all teach us more about how the individual and society interact and influence each other. Another important distinction is the one between psychology and psychiatry. Simply put, psychologists pursue


Death and Dying Psychology

graduate level degrees (master’s or doctorate) in psychology, whereas psychiatrists complete medical school prior to specializing in psychiatry. After medical school (and receiving an MD degree), there are three years of psychiatry training to become an adult psychiatrist. If they want to specialize further (such as in child and adolescent psychiatry or forensics), there is additional training in this specialty field for several years and then they must take a board examination to become certified in their specialty area. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication, and psychologists cannot (although in some rural or underserved areas this is an option for psychologists). Psychiatrists are also uniquely suited to understand biological or medical contributions to mental illness. On the other hand, some day-to-day practices of psychiatrists do not look that different from those of psychologists. What does studying psychology entail? There are so many options! Within psychology, there are multiple fields of study. Some of them you will learn about in these volumes, but it would take far too many volumes to cover all of them. If you’re interested in exploring more about psychology beyond this series, you might consider developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, and comparative psychology. Developmental psychology is the study of development throughout a person’s life, from infancy through old age. Some of the more famous developmental psychologists have been Jean Piaget, who identified stages for the development of cognition in children, and B. F. Skinner, who studied the process of learning and taught us about the concepts of operant and classical conditioning. Another field, cognitive psychology, studies human thought: one famous psychologist in this field is Noam Chomsky, who studied the development of language. Comparative psychologists study animal behavior, and in this area Konrad



Lorenz studied the process by which baby geese “imprint” on the first object they see after birth. If you Google Professor Lorenz, you may see pictures of goslings following him around the yard. Although there are many ways to cluster the various subfields of psychology, one common distinction is between clinical and nonclinical applications, sometimes also referred to as applied psychology vs. basic research . Clinical or applied psychology focuses on understanding and treating psychiatric disorders that challenge day-to-day functioning. Treatment is derived from an evidence base that assesses outcomes or the ways that a treatment is effective. Establishing an evidence base is an important aspect of the work of a psychologist. Some devote their careers to this work, which can overlap with nonclinical or research applications. Researchers use scientific methods to advance knowledge in the field in a variety of topics. These psychologists work in academic settings as well as industry and organizations. Why would you want to become a psychologist or even to study psychology? The field of psychology has countless applications to everyday life, and as such, it can be a jumping off point for many careers. The reader will learn about different psychology careers in these volumes. What’s more, as a major in college, psychology can be applied to a variety of careers outside of psychology, such as human resources, teaching, criminal justice, and many others. For those who have the option to take an elective psychology course in high school, it can be a wonderful opportunity to get a jump start on the weighty decision of what to major in and to see whether the subject matter interests you. In writing this introduction, I can give you a window into a personal choice. I am a child clinical psychologist and have devoted my career to helping children and their families. I work


Death and Dying Psychology

in an academic medical center, which means that although I do clinical work, I also teach and supervise psychology students at many phases of their career. In addition, I write for various venues and conduct applied research into the outcomes of the treatment we provide. I am also an administrator, and as such I attend to aspects of psychology as a “business”: hiring and training those who do the work in our setting and tracking our budget, to name a few examples. One of the best things about this career is that every day is different, and yet the common experience is of helping others. In producing this series, we hope that we can provide a window into the varied choices you can make with a degree in psychology. From professor to therapist, working with toddlers or the elderly, teaching business psychology or conducting family therapy, there is likely at least one application of the subject of psychology that will appeal to you. I hope the exploration is rewarding!

Anne S. Walters, PhD, ABPP Clinical Director Children’s Partial Hospital Program Clinical Professor Alpert Medical School of Brown University



A thanatologist is a psychologist who works in the area of death and dying.


Thanatology: The study of death and how people react to it. A psychologist or another professional working in this area is called a thanatologist . Bereavement: Suffering from the death of a loved one. A person who is suffering this way is bereaved . Compassion: Sympathy for, and awareness of, another person’s pain, along with a desire to help that person. Someone with these qualities is called compassionate . Practicum: A course of training in which a student mainly observes and takes notes on how a licensed psychologist treats patients, but the student doesn’t actually participate. Terminally ill: Having an illness or a disease that will result in death.


Becoming a Psychologist Who Works with Death and Dying People

Healthcare professionals who deal with death and dying often use thanatology in their work. They include people in the mental health field, such as psychologists, grief counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists but also hospice workers, nurses, and doctors. All of them are called upon to help people in crisis situations who have lost someone who was close to them or who might be facing their own death. Many people fear death, as reflected in ancient stories about the Grim Reaper, the Angel of Death, and the wail of the banshee (a mythical female spirit in Irish legend) being an omen of death, to name a few. In contrast, the psychological practice of thanatology encourages a more positive attitude toward death. The focus is on helping people deal with their emotions of fear, pain, and sadness when facing either their own death or the loss of a loved one.


There are two important psychological concepts in thanatology:

1. Denial: Many individuals remain in a state of denial that someone they know is going to die soon. Often, dying people do not believe that they will die. Young people especially feel as if death is something that happens to other people. As for themselves, they feel that they are immortal. 2. Loss: As people get older and experience their parents and friends dying, they recognize that death is real.

Listen to Dina Bell-Laroche discuss thanatology, the study of death and loss.


Death and Dying Psychology

What Is a “Good Death”? Facing their death is probably the scariest thing people will do in their lives, but if they are lucky enough to have time to prepare, they can gradually learn to accept the process and experience peace with a sense of “letting go.” As people get closer to death, they can use this time to take stock of their lives: celebrate their accomplishments, forgive and forget their regrets, be grateful for all of the people they love and who have loved them, try to be kind to whoever crosses their path, and realize that everything must die as part of the cycle of life. It helps if people have some sort of spiritual beliefs, but they can maintain a calm and peaceful state of mind even if they don’t. The tragedy is when lives are cut short too soon or violently, and everyone involved will naturally have overwhelming emotions. Psychology professionals and others who study thanatology can help these people immensely. What they do is not merely a job; it’s a calling. This type of work is not for the faint of heart, but it might be one of the most rewarding tasks anyone can imagine. Important Character Traits for a Thanatologist Psychologists and grief counselors who work with end-of-life issues should be empathetic and patient when listening to a bereaved person’s story. Not merely good listeners, they should be active listeners. That means paying full attention to the other person, asking questions to draw out that person’s feelings and thoughts, rewording and repeating back to them what he or she just said to show understanding, not being critical or judgmental, and not offering unwanted advice. Thanatologists should be sensitive to people of cultures, races, and religions different from their own. They must be able to think on their feet and solve

Chapter 1: Becoming a Psychologist Who Works with Death and Dying


Psychologists should be empathetic when listening to a bereaved person’s story.

problems as they arise. They should be moral and ethical so that patients can trust them with their deepest fears and emotions. They should love learning new things for the sake of learning itself. They should also be able to set boundaries with patients so that both the therapist and the patient understand what is expected of them versus what would be improper. A thanatologist is usually dealing with life-and-death situations and helping patients cope with fear and panic, sadness, anger, resentment, and worries about their loved ones. It’s important for thanatologists to stay involved in, but not be overwhelmed by, a patient’s suffering and emotions.


Death and Dying Psychology

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