• Post-mortem consciousness: views of psychotherapists and their influence on the work with clients

      Gubi, Peter; West, William; Nielsen, Claudia (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-08)
      The aim of this study was to explore the views of psychotherapists on postmortem consciousness and whether these views influence their work with clients. The mixed-methods approach used an online survey in stage one, which invited counsellors and psychotherapists to answer questions about their views on post-mortem consciousness. The sole participation criterion was that that participants must be experienced and accredited. Replies were gained from 103 participants. The survey yielded demographic information and included questions allowing for free-text responses for participants to expand on their comments. These were analysed thematically. Participants from stage one, who were willing to be interviewed for this project, were invited to make contact in order to take part in stage two of the research and 12 practitioners were interviewed. The transcripts were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Almost 70% of the survey participants indicated that questions about post-mortem consciousness influence the way they live their lives and also the way they work with clients. Additionally, just over 52% of the participants declared a belief in life after death. However, the findings from the interviews showed that 10 out of the 12 therapists who were interviewed were not aware of their clients bringing issues around death or post-mortem consciousness in their work. This may be due to: (1) therapists not having worked on issues relating to their own mortality; (2) a fear of losing credibility if the issue of post-mortem consciousness were to be discussed in the work; (3) confusion between imposing their views and allowing exploration of the topic of postmortem consciousness in their work; (4) the absence of this theme in their professional training; or (5) the possibility that the topic of death and postmortem consciousness was not part of clients’ overt or covert presenting issues. It is suggested that the current scientific paradigm on which counselling and psychotherapy is based, represses the presenting of more open and speculative views about what it means to be human, thereby limiting issues that clients might otherwise bring to therapy. These may include belief in post-mortem consciousness. The research suggests that therapists, supervisors and trainers need to assess their own views about post-mortem consciousness to become more open to, and able to work with, the potential presence of underlying issues that may stem from clients’ views about post-mortem consciousness in clients’ presenting issues.