Specialty Workshops
Wednesday, April 10
Full Day: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy

Presenters: Wendy G. Lichtenthal, PhD, FT

Category: Assessment and Intervention

Indicator: Contemporary Perspective

Presentation Level:  Intermediate

The loss of a loved one commonly challenges a griever’s sense of purpose, meaning, and identity as well as adaptive meaning-making processes. These challenges sometimes contribute to and are even indicative of prolonged grief reactions.  Grief experts have therefore long-argued the value of focusing on “meaning” in therapeutic pursuits. This workshop will provide an overview of a manualized therapeutic approach, Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy (MCGT). MCGT is a 16-session, one-on-one, cognitive-behavioral-experiential-existential intervention that has initially been developed for parents bereaved by cancer, but has applicability to a wide variety of grieving populations. MCGT highlights four core concepts, helping the bereaved to recognize: 1) their ability to choose their attitude in the face of suffering; 2) their ability to connect to sources of meaning in their lives; 3) their ability to choose how they construct meaning about different life events, including the death; and 4) their ability to remain connected to the deceased. A randomized controlled trial comparing MCGT to supportive psychotherapy in parents bereaved by cancer demonstrated the promise of MCGT, particularly for parents with higher levels of prolonged grief symptoms, resulting in improvements (moderate to large effect sizes) on parents’ sense of meaning, prolonged grief symptoms, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, continued connection to the deceased child, and functioning at work and with daily activities. Drawing on this research, examples of exercises that may facilitate meaning-making processes and may enhance a sense of meaning will be described, with opportunities for experiential exercises and discussion of applications of MCGT.


  • Identify meaning-making challenges that grieving individuals commonly face
  • Describe Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy and its core principles
  • Discuss exercises that may facilitate meaning-making and enhance the griever’s sense of meaning


  • Lichtenthal WG, Catarozoli C, Masterson M, Slivjak E, Schofield E, Roberts KE, Neimeyer RA, Wiener L, Prigerson HG, Kissane DW, Li Y, Breitbart W. An open trial of Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy: Rationale and preliminary evaluation. Palliat Support Care, in press
  • Lichtenthal WG, Lacey S, Roberts K, Sweeney C, Slivjak E. Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy. In Breitbart W (Ed.), Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy (pp.88-99). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017
  • Lichtenthal WG, Breitbart, W. The central role of meaning in adjustment to the loss of a child to cancer: Implications for the development of Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care 2015; 9(1):46-51
  • Lichtenthal WG, Breitbart, W. Finding meaning through the attitude one takes. In R. A. Neimeyer (Ed.), Techniques in Grief Therapy: Creative Strategies for Counseling the Bereaved (pp. 161-164). New York: Routledge; 2012
  • Lichtenthal WG, Currier JM, Neimeyer RA, Keesee NJ. Sense and significance: A mixed methods examination of meaning making after the loss of one’s child. J Clin Psychol 2010; 66(7):791-812

Presenter Bio:

Wendy G. Lichtenthal, Ph.D., is Director of the Bereavement Clinic and an Assistant Attending Psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM). She completed her clinical psychology internship at WCM and a postdoctoral research fellowship in psycho-oncology at MSK, where she was Chief Research Fellow. As a licensed clinical psychologist, her clinical work focuses on bereaved individuals and breast cancer patients utilizing a variety of psychotherapeutic approaches, with an emphasis on cognitive-behavioral and existential therapies. She was a recipient of the International Psycho-Oncology Society Kawano New Investigator Award for her research, which focuses on developing psychosocial interventions to assist with prolonged grief and meaning-making in grieving populations and strategies for identifying the bereaved in greatest need. Her published research on bereavement has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Cancer Institute. She is a member of the ADEC Scientific Advisory Committee and Grief Counseling Standards Task Force.

Wednesday, April 10
Half Day AM Workshop: 8:30 a.m. - 12/noon

Death is NOT the End

Presenter: Carl Becker, PhD, DLitt

Category:  Loss, Grief and Mourning Indicator: Cultural/Socialization OR Religious/Spiritual
Presentation Level: Introductory/Intermediate

Social psychology and medical science are coming to understand what religions have taught for centuries: Death is not the end!  Social psychology is learning the importance of commemorating people's life and death, as in funerals and memorials, and of supporting bereaved families.  Medical science is discovering evidence that human consciousness continues after brain functions have ceased.  We must define death by heart death and brain death, but what happens after heart death and brain death is also very important.  There are several levels on which the human spirit or soul may continue after the body dies--both in the memories and lives of the bereaved, and also in the experience of the departed!  

This understanding should teach us how to live, die, and care for dying people better.  We can plan better for a better death-- more like the kind of death that we want. We can care better for people who are dying, giving them the kind of care that they want.  We can grieve better for those who have died before us, supporting the trajectory of grief that each family needs.  And we can prevent suicide better, if we understand that suicide offers no escape.  Death is not the End, but a journey that challenges us to live better now.  Contemplating our mortality can help us to find greater meaning in our lives.  


  • Understand what recent findings and interpretations of near-death research mean for our understanding of death
  • Apply the implications of near-death research to end-of-life planning, ranging from advanced directives to counseling and caregiving
  • Apply the implications of near-death research to bereaved people in working with complicated grief and suicidal survivors


  • Becker, Carl. “Challenges of Caring for the Aging and Dying” in Jonathan Watts & Yoshiharu Tomatsu (eds.) Buddhist Care for the Dying and Bereaved. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Press, 2012.
  • Ando, M., Simon, G., Marquez-Wong, M., Becker, C. Bereavement life review improves spiritual well-being and ameliorates depression among American caregivers. Palliative and Supportive Care 13(02): 1-7, March 2014.  doi: 10.1017/S1478951514000030
  • Hiyoshi-Taniguchi, K., Becker, C., Kinoshita, A. Social Workers Can Use Sense of Coherence to Predict Burnout of End-of-Life Care-Givers. British Journal of Social Work, December, 44: 2360–2374, 2014.12.  doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct086
  • Tei, S., Becker, C., Kawada, R., Fujino, J., Jankowski, K.F., Sugihara, G., Murai, T., Takahashi, H. (2014) Can we predict burnout severity from empathy-related brain activity? Translational Psychiatry (2014) 4, e393.  doi:10.1038/tp.2014.  
  • Becker, Carl. (2016) ‘Spirituality’ in Henk Ten Have, (ed.) Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. January 2016.     doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09483-0_398

Presenter Bio:

Born in Chicago, Carl Becker spent most of his life in Japan. After studying death and dying at Kyoto University in the 1970’s, he received his PhD from the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii in 1981, and honorary doctorates from Bombay and Moscow thereafter.  He taught at Hawaii, Osaka, Tsukuba, and Kyoto Universities, the first foreign-born scholar fully tenured and promoted in the Japanese civil service. He has received Fulbright grants and the SIETAR Award for Cross-Cultural Understanding.  Consulted by Japanese news media, he participates in projects of Japan's Ministries of Education and Health, and has been decorated by the Emperor of Japan for his studies of aging and dying in the world’s most elderly country. 

Half Day AM Workshop: 8:30 a.m. - 12/noon

The Fabric of our Lives...Human and Sublime

Presenters: Sarah Vollmann, MPS, ATR-BC, LICSW and Sharon Strouse, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT

Category:  Loss, Grief and Mourning 
Indicator: Family and Individual
Presentation Level: Intermediate

This didactic and experiential workshop will introduce doll making as a transformative art therapy technique, effective in the treatment of traumatic loss. This creative and imaginative approach to grief therapy is anchored in grief and bereavement theory:  The Constructivist Theory of Meaning Making where grief narratives and identity reconstruction engage an essential question, “Who am I,” in the effort toward sense making and benefit finding (Thompson & Neimeyer, 2014) and Attachment-Informed Grief Therapy, (Kosminsky & Jordan, 2016) where the doll making process and concrete, transitional object support an exploration of relationship and the continuing bond with the deceased.  Case studies will demonstrate the efficacy of this art therapy modality (Stance, 2014; Strouse, 2013) where the bereaved engage a non-verbal process that targets sensory-emotive-cognitive processing areas of the brain that are needed for psychological transformation,” (Hass-Cohen, 2015) resulting in a pliable human form, symbolic of themselves or a lost love. In this workshop form gives way to formlessness, which gives way to form again and the fabric of our lives are deconstructed and reconstructed in service to healing.  The body is a “mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression.  The body is a sacred threshold; and it deserves to be respected, minded, and understood.  (Participants will experience) that place where the inner life and intimacy of souls longing to find an outer mirror, is met…a place where we are seen and felt and touched.” (O’Donohue, 1997). Participants will have the opportunity to create their own dolls, engaging as they choose in their own process of symbolization, creativity and meaning making and delving into a hands-on experience of this transformative modality.


  • To discuss art based theoretical foundations that support the use of creative and expressive interventions with the bereaved
  • To examine doll making, an imaginative process that addresses the shattered “self,” within the framework of the Constructivist Theory of Meaning Making, identity reconstruction, sense making and benefit finding
  • To understand doll making through the lens of Attachment-informed Grief Therapy, where the process and tangible object are in service to the continuing bond with the deceased


  • Hass-Cohen,N. & Findlay, J.C., (2015).  Art Therapy and The Neuroscience of Relationships, Creativity, and Resiliency:  Skills and Practices.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Kosminsky,P.S. & Jordan,J.R., (2016).  Attachment-Informed Grief Therapy.  New York:  Routledge.
  • O’Donohue, J. (1997).  Anam Ċara. New York: Harper Perennial.
  • Stance, S.M., (2014).  Therapeutic Doll Making in Art Psychotherapy for Complex Trauma.  Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 31 (4), 12-20. 
  • Strouse, S. (2013) Artful Grief: A Diary of Healing. Bloomington: Balboa Press.
  • Thompson, B.E., Neimeyer, R.A., (2014).  Grief and the Expressive Arts:  Practices for Creating Meaning.  New York: Routledge.
  • Vollmann, S. (2017). Multimedia Approaches in Childhood Bereavement. In B. MacWilliam (Editor), Complicated Grief, Attachment, & Art Therapy: Theory, Treatment, and 14 Ready-To-Use Protocols (pp. 306-323.) London, UK & Philadelphia PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Presenter Bios:

Sarah Vollmann, MPS, ATR-BC, LICSW is a licensed clinical social worker and a board-certified art therapist. She earned her master's in art therapy from Pratt Institute and her master's in social work from Columbia University. Sarah currently works with adolescents at Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge Massachusetts, and with bereaved patients in her private practice. Her 20 years of experience have spanned a variety of settings, including a pediatric medical hospital, a residential treatment facility, and a mental health clinic. Sarah worked with 9/11 families, has published on grief and loss, and has presented nationally and internationally on art therapy, grief, and bereavement.

Sharon Strouse, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT is a board-certified and licensed clinical professional art therapist.  She earned her master’s in art therapy from Goucher College. Her private practice and national presentations focus on traumatic loss, specifically parents who have lost a child and suicide bereavement. The creative process, meaning-making and continuing bonds with the deceased are the theoretical cornerstones of her work. She is author of Artful Grief: A Diary of Healing, (www.artfulgrief.com) written twelve years after the suicide of her seventeen year old daughter.  Additional published works can be found in Neimeyer’s Techniques of Grief Therapy: Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved, Thompson and Neimeyer’s Grief and the Expressive Arts:  Practices for Creating Meaning as well as, Di Maria’s,  Exploring Ethical Issues in Art Therapy and Gershman and Thompson’s, Prescriptive Memory in Grief and Loss:  The Art of Dreamscaping. Sharon is co-founder of The Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation (www.krsf.com) a non-profit dedicated to supporting programs that increase awareness of Mental Health through education and the arts.

Wednesday, April 10

Half Day PM Workshop: 1:30 - 5:00 p.m.

Working with Multiple Losses

Presenter: J. William Worden, PhD, ABPP

Category:  Loss, Grief and Mourning
Indicator:  Professional Issues
Presentation Level:  Intermediate

When people experience multiple losses from death in a short period of time, they often experience what Kastenbaum calls “Bereavement Overload.” Grief may seem overwhelming, cause an individual to shut down or manifest itself in physical and psychological symptoms.  “Bereavement Overload” may occur should an individual experience several losses in a short timeframe, or several losses may occur in one event, such as an auto accident. Strategies for helping individuals experiencing “bereavement overload” to jump-start the process in a way that feels safe and enables them to better process their grief will be discussed.  Ten cases from the presenter’s practice wilWl illustrate the issues involved and appropriate treatment interventions.   

Learning Objectives

  • To identify the key issues stemming from multiple losses
  • To understand how multiple losses may result in “Bereavement Overload”
  • To learn strategies to help mourners process multiple losses without getting stuck, or if stuck, how to move forward towards the best adaptation to the losses


  • Worden, J.W. (2018) Grief counseling & grief therapy:  A handbook for the mental health practitioner (5th Ed).  NY:  Springer Publishing Company.
  • Worden, J.W. (2017).  Forms of complicated grief, in K. Doka & A. Tucci (Eds.), when grief is complicated.  Washington, DC:  HFA.
  • Worden, J.W. (2015).  Theoretical perspectives on loss and grief in J. Stillion & T. Attig (Eds.), Death, dying, and bereavement.  NY:  Springer Publishing Company.
  • Neimeyer, R. (2016) Ed.  Techniques of grief therapy:  Assessment and Intervention.  NY: Routledge.

Presenter Bio:

J. William Worden, PhD, ABPP, is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and holds academic appointments at the Harvard Medical School and at the Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology in California.  He is also Co-Principal Investigator of the Harvard Child Bereavement Study, based at the Massachusetts General Hospital.  Recipient of 5 major NIH grants, his research and clinical work over 40 years has centered on issues of life-threatening illness and life-threatening behavior. 

Dr. Worden has lectured and written on topics related to terminal illness, cancer care, and bereavement.  He is the author of Personal Death Awareness; Children & Grief: When a Parent Dies, and is co-author of Helping Cancer Patients Cope.  His book Grief Counseling & Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, now in its fifth edition, has been translated into 14 foreign languages and is widely used around the world as the standard reference on the subject.  Dr. Worden’s clinical practice is in Laguna Niguel, California.

Half Day PM Workshop: 1:30 - 5:00 p.m.

African American Bereavement: Suffocated Grief & Survival

Presenter: Tashel Bordere, PhD, CT

Indicator:  Cultural/Socialization
Presentation Level:  All levels

This interactive workshop will take participants on a powerful journey through the lived experiences of diverse African American populations through loss, suffocated grief (Bordere, 2011, 2016), survival and resilience. We will explore historical and contemporary encounters with death and non-death loss, and factors such as race-based trauma that further complicate grief and mourning processes. Drawing from research, practice, and highly publicized cases, we will examine patterns in cultural values (e.g., language, spirituality, fictive kin) and discuss the complexities of meaning-making, coping, and bereavement for African American individuals, families (e.g., parenting, grand-parenting), and communities (e.g., churches, medical facilities, educational institutions). Attendees from diverse disciplines and practices are invited to connect, exchange, and become more equipped with tools for culturally conscientious practice (5 A’s of Culturally Conscientious Care, Bordere, 2016), cultural humility, and trust-building grounded in critical race theory and socially just practice (Harris & Bordere, 2016). In a safe and supportive learning environment, participants will have opportunities to practice creative and effective approaches (Cultural Iconic Approach).  Attendees will also explore skills that increase “self” and “other” awareness, knowledge of systems of privilege and systemic oppression, alliance-building, promotion of self-advocacy, and effective service delivery to diverse African American populations. The workshop will conclude with a unique historical cultural ritual of resilience and hope that has been maintained by African American populations in the city of New Orleans.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe patterns unique to loss and bereavement for African American families within developmental, historical, social, and political contexts employing ecological and social justice perspectives
  • Examine factors that complicate grief and mourning processes as well as resiliency factors and survival strategies among African American populations
  • Identify culturally conscientious approaches to supporting bereaved African American individuals and families


  • Barrett, R. (2009). Sociocultural considerations: African Americans, grief, and loss. In K. J. Doka 
         & A. S. Tucci (Eds.), Living with grief: Diversity and end-of-life care (pp. 79-89). Washington, 
         DC: Hospice Foundation of America.
  • Bordere, T. (2009). ‘To look at death another way’: Black teenage males’ perspectives on 
         second-lines  and regular funerals in New Orleans. Omega, 58 (3), 213-232. 
  • Harris, D., & Bordere, T. C. (Eds.) (2016). Handbook of social justice in loss and grief:  Exploring 
         diversity,  equity, and inclusion.  Amityville, NY:  Routledge.
  • Molaison, V., Bordere, T., & Fowler, K. (2011). “The remedy is NOT working”: Seeking socially 
         just and culturally conscientious practices in bereavement. In R. Neimeyer, H. Winokuer, D. 
         Harris, & G. Thornton (Eds.), Grief and bereavement in contemporary society: Bridging
         research and practice. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Rosenblatt, P. C., & Wallace, B. R. (2005). African American grief. New York, NY: Routledge

Presenter Bio:

Dr. Tashel Bordere, is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Science and State Extension Specialist in Youth Development at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she teaches Adolescence and Young Adulthood, Black Families, and Childhood Death and Bereavement.  She is a past Board member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, past Chair of the Multicultural Committee, and past Editor of the ADEC Forum. She has specialized training as a certified thanatologist  (Death, Dying, and Grief).  Dr. Bordere’s research focuses on African American youth and family bereavement, suffocated grief, and resilience through loss. Dr. Bordere has done numerous workshops and consultations, and published works relating to diversity and resilience through loss including her recent co-edited book/co-authored book (with Darcy Harris), Handbook of Social Justice in Loss and Grief (2016). She has been featured on NPR – Teens and Grief, Hospice Foundation’s Live National Webcast - Living with Grief: Helping Adolescents Cope with Loss, and Open to Hope Cable Show – Saving At Risk Youth.  Dr. Bordere was recently awarded the Ronald K. Barrett Award from the Association of Death Education and Counseling for her research on African American youth grief. She developed S.H.E.D. Loss and Grief Tools Training (MU Extension).