SOLID GROUND - Center for a Balanced Life

When facing a serious illness or the end of life an individual may feel they have lost their sense of “personhood” and dignity. Dignity Therapy is designed to restore a sense of meaning and value.
Developed by a palliative care psychiatrist, Dr. Harvey Chochinov, dignity therapy “invites people in recorded conversations to talk about the things that they would most want known or remembered, or things that really speak to the essence of who they were. These conversations, along with the edited transcripts that are bequeathed to loved ones, are meant to reaffirm their sense of personhood.”

“So if being an artist, being a writer, being a family person, really speaks to your essence, then giving you the opportunity to speak about those things near the end of your life may be one strategy to try and reinforce the notion that in spite of your illness, in spite of all the symptoms and challenges and losses, that that essential component that defines you is still there. It’s there and evidenced by the fact that you can speak about it.”

During a 30 to 60 minute session, a trained interviewer asks a series of open-ended questions that encourage patients to talk about their lives or what matters most to them. The conversation is recorded, transcribed, edited and then returned within a few days to the patient, who is given the opportunity to read the transcript and make changes before a final version is produced. Many choose to share the document with family and friends. A person often may share things in this document they are unable to say to their family and loved ones.

Questions asked during Dignity Therapy

  • “Tell me a little about your life history, particularly the parts that you either remember most, or think are the most important. When did you feel most alive?”
  • “Are there specific things that you would want your family to know about you, and are there particular things you would want them to remember?”
  • “What are the most important roles you have played in life (family roles, vocational roles, community service roles, etc.)? Why were they so important to you, and what do you think you accomplished in those roles?”
  • “What are your most important accomplishments, and what do you feel most proud of?”
  • “Are there particular things that you feel still need to be said to your loved ones, or things that you would want to take the time to say once again?”
  • “What are your hopes and dreams for your loved ones?”
  • “What have you learned about life that you would want to pass along to others? What advice or words of guidance would you wish to pass along to your (son, daughter, husband, wife, parents, others)?”

If you are interested in Dignity Therapy for yourself or for someone as a gift, please call Lenore Flynn for additional information.