Dr. Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, where he also maintains an active clinical practice. Since completing his doctoral training at the University of Nebraska in 1982, he has published 30 books, including Techniques of Grief Therapy: Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved and Grief and the Expressive Arts: Practices for Creating Meaning (both with Routledge), and serves as Editor of the journal Death Studies. The author of nearly 500 articles and book chapters, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process, both in his published work and through his frequent professional workshops for national and international audiences. The recipient of the MISS Foundation’s Phoenix Award: Rising to the Service of Humanity, Neimeyer served as Chair of the International Work Group for Death, Dying, & Bereavement and President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. In recognition of his scholarly contributions, he has been granted the Eminent Faculty Award by the University of Memphis, made a Fellow of the Clinical Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association, and given Lifetime Achievement Awards by both the Association for Death Education and Counseling and the International Network on Personal Meaning.
Dr. Neimeyer will be giving the following keynote lecture and pre-conference workshop, as well as participating in the panel on Working with Meaning in Life Issues for the 9th Biennial International Meaning Conference, July 28-31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.
Intervening in Meaning: New Directions in Grief Therapy
Scheduled for Friday, July 29, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Viewed from a constructivist perspective, a central process in grieving is the attempt to reaffirm or reconstruct a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss. As research with bereaved young people, parents and older adults indicates, both natural and violent death losses can leave mourners struggling to process the event story of the death and to make sense of its implications for their lives, and to access the back story of their relationship with their deceased loved one in a way that reaffirms their sense of secure attachment. In this presentation I summarize our group’s recent studies of the psychological and spiritual struggle to make sense of loss, outline several validated measures of meaning-making processes and outcomes, and describe current research to evaluate the impact of narrative and expressive arts interventions to help people find growth through grief.
- Summarize research supporting a meaning reconstruction model of adaptive grieving
- Identify four complementary measures of meaning that can be used to assess struggles in sense-making in the anticipation or aftermath of a loss
- Describe three programs of research investigating the process and outcome of narrative constructivist models of grief therapy and four representative interventions they include
Pre-Conference Workshop Title
Techniques of Grief Therapy (Full Day Workshop)
Scheduled for Thursday, July 28, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Beginning with a discussion of the power of presence as a fundamental dimension of the therapeutic “holding environment,” we will consider how we can quickly assess our clients’ needs, particularly when they struggle with complicated, prolonged grief symptomatology. We will then discuss how to foster a safe relational container for a healing “re-telling” of the loss experience, anchoring such work in both contemporary meaning reconstruction and dual process models and related research. Drawing on clinical videos of clients contending with losses through cancer, sudden accident and suicide, we will learn to listen between the lines of the stories clients tell themselves and others about the death to grasp more fully the unvoiced meaning of their grief, and how we can help them integrate the event story of the death into the larger narrative of their lives. Participants should conclude the session with sharpened skills for clinical assessment, a clearer appreciation for the challenge to meaning and spiritualty associated with violent death bereavement, and an expanded toolbox for using metaphor, body work and a variety of narrative procedures for helping clients make sense of the loss and their response to it.
- Distinguish between therapeutic “presence” and “absence” in the process of therapy
- Recognize empirical risk factors associated with complicated grief reactions
- Implement restorative retelling and situational revisiting procedures for mastering the event story of the loss
- Differentiate between forms of directed journaling that foster self-immersion and self-distancing to modulate emotions evoked by the death
- Outline metaphoric and body-oriented procedures for exploring the sensed meanings of the client’s grief
- Describe narrative techniques for accommodating loss in literal and figurative ways into the changed narrative of the client’s life
Interested in learning more about pre-conference workshops? Find out more here.
Working with Meaning in Life Issues
Scheduled for Friday, July 29, 4:15 PM – 6:15 PM