Beyond knowledge and skills: self-competence in working with death, dying, and bereavement

Death Stud. Nov-Dec 2012;36(10):899-913. doi: 10.1080/07481187.2011.604465.


This study explored helping professionals' views on death work competencies. A total of 176 helping professionals were invited to state what the necessary competencies in death work are. Content analysis was conducted. Results showed that death work competencies can be categorized into 4 major areas: (a) knowledge competence, (b) practice competence, (c) self-competence, and (d) work-environment competence. Self-competence was the most frequently mentioned by the participants. Self-competence was further categorized into 3 themes: (a) personal resources, (b) existential coping, and (c) emotional coping. Findings reflect helping professionals' emphasis on the role of self and personal preparation in doing death work. Implications on future death education and training for helping professionals were discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Bereavement*
  • Counseling / standards
  • Death*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional Competence*
  • Qualitative Research