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Working with family members who have lost a child to cancer is a complex and challenging task. We provide links to resources here for schools and employers as the death of a child can have a profound effect upon children and adults both in the family and in the community at large.

Please note that any information given here is not a substitute for appropriate professional training.

Grief Counselling

What factors determine effective grief counselling?

Morawetz (2007) comments that there are more than 250 individual counselling models and techniques to choose from. In determining the key features of successful counselling Morawetz identifies 4 significant factors:

Client factors

The client’s personal characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, motivations, skills, social supports etc. So clients are empowered as follows:

  • When counsellors assess the client's strengths and resources which are relevant to the problem

  • When counsellors ask clients about their beliefs regarding the problem and the potential solution

  • When counsellors select interventions that are compatible with the clients beliefs and values

Relationship factors

The client’s perception of the relationship with their counsellor is crucial. Successful relationships are characterised by warmth, caring, accepting, genuine and encouraging counsellors, counsellors who accommodate the needs of the client rather than fitting the client into a particular theoretical model. This includes:

  • Tailoring the counselling to fit with the client rather than counsellors own beliefs.

  • Collaborating with the client rather than dictating to them.

  • Exploring material which is relevant to the client.

Hope and expectation

These factors consist of the client’s hopes and expectations regarding the possibility of change and improvement. Hope and expectation are strengthened when:

  • Counsellors convey a sense of hope and possibility without denying the pain of loss.

  • Counsellors encourage clients to focus on present and future possibilities instead of focussing only on past problems.

The model and technique of counselling is apparently the least important of all 4 factors but it is important that the model is appropriate to the specific beliefs, characteristics and needs of the client.

See: Morawetz, D. (2007). What works in grief counselling? US Evidence and Australian Experience. Grief Matters, Summer 2007, 57-59.