Gaining Perspective on Death: Training Program and Language Use Outcomes Assessment

September 2, 2014
Arnaud Delorme, PhD

Schlitz, M., Schooler, J., Pierce, A., Murphy, A., & Delorme, A. (2014). Gaining perspective on death: Training program and language use outcomes assessment. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 1(3), 169-180.


Understanding and managing the fear of death is a central issue in clinical care. Research in terror management theory suggests that death reminders can lead to anxiety, depression, and maladaptive social behaviors. Additional research has suggested that discourse about death can be beneficial in contexts that are safe and supportive. A telecourse and web-based learning program on diverse worldviews of death and the afterlife was developed and used to explore these issues. The impact of this training was assessed using pre- and post-test journaling and questionnaire data. The content of these journals was analyzed within and across subjects for emotionally meaningful expressions related to the writing prompts. Significant pre- and post-differences were identified using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count text analysis software. After the intervention, participants were less centered on their body as use of the body category decreased by 32% (p < .01). This was consistent with an increase of 16% in the use of abstract pronouns (p < .05). Participants also were more confident in their expression with a 58% increase in the certain category (p < .05). Participants made fewer references to death with a decrease of 34% in the death category (p < .05). Results of this work support the feasibility of an online training program that has measurable beneficial affects for clinical care, both for professionals and patients. We discuss such educational clinical applications and the implications for future research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

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