The caregiver's perspective on existential and spiritual distress in palliative care

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2006 Jul;32(1):13-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2006.01.009.


There is a paucity of research relating to how palliative caregivers conceptualize, identify, and provide for spiritual and existential domains of care. Focus groups comprising experienced palliative care providers participated in three semistructured 2-2.5 hour interviews, which were transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis. Eight themes were revealed: conceptualization of spirituality; creating openings; issues of transference and countertransference; cumulative grief; healing connections; the wounded healer; sustaining a healing environment for the caregiver; and challenges and strengths for the spiritual and existential domains of palliative care. While the spiritual and existential domains were variously conceived by experienced care providers, their significance for both patient and caregiver was affirmed. Transference and countertransference issues and the "wounded healer" concept were considered fundamental to effective care. Strategies for promoting therapeutic depth discussion were suggested and the importance of self-awareness and staff support emphasized.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Existentialism / psychology*
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Spirituality*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*