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death and dying


									                      GRADUATE SOCIAL WORK PROGRAM
                         University of Missouri-Kansas City

                 Karen DiSanto, LCSW                    H: 816-891-7756
            4825 Troost , Suite 106                 E-mail:

             Course Number: SW 580 Grief and Loss in Social Work Practice
                                  Summer 2008

                                     COURSE SYLLABUS

I. Integrative Course Rationale:
The Grief and Loss in Social Work Practice elective is for the advanced year of the social
work program. The course builds upon the skills from the foundation year coursework.
Students will use the knowledge gained in the Human Behavior and Foundation Practice
courses to assess specific grief presentations in persons of diverse ages, races, cultures,
and socioeconomic backgrounds. Policy that impacts clients who have experienced
losses will build upon the basic policy learning form foundation year policy courses.
Concurrent coursework including field practicum experiences will enhance the students’
learning. A liberal arts perspective that includes the impact of biology, anthropology,
sociology psychology, economics, ecology, ethics literature and theology will be
integrated throughout the course.

Issues pertaining to loss and grief are Integral in nearly every clinical situation that social
workers address. Loss occurs throughout the life cycle, divorce, loss of a job; the effects
of a disaster and an acute illness are all examples of losses other than death that impact
It is essential that social workers be trained in the understanding and assessment of loss
and grief issues. Social workers need to develop interventions so they are able to
provide practice-centered approaches to addressing these issues for individuals or
within groups. It is also imperative that social workers are able to influence the service
delivery segments of the population so that they are better able to administer to the
loss and grief issues clients experience.
This course will be taught so the following are included and present:
           1. The focus is on the strengths, assets and resiliency that an individual or
              group brings to their current situation;
           2. That there is a profound respect for the multitudes of cultural diversities
              pertaining to the experience of grief and mourning;
           3. The promotion of social justice, especially with vulnerable, underserved,
              and disenfranchised populations;
           4. The theoretical bases and critical analyses of social work intervention
This course will provide in-depth and specific knowledge of grief and bereavement
issues. It will serve to expand upon the curriculum in the area of specialization already
undertaken by the graduate student and prepare the student to intervene and advocate
for individuals, groups and societies in the areas of loss, grief, and mourning.
Pre-requisites or co-requisites: Completion of foundation year

II. Course Description:
The framework for this course involves theories of loss and grief and methods of
assessment, and interventions applicable to children, adolescents, adults and families.
The interplay between uncomplicated (“normal”) grief and bereavement and clinical
syndromes that may lead to a complicated grief response is analyzed for the purpose of
helping clients through effective and empirically based interventions grounded in social
work values and an ethical decision making process. Each developmental life stage of
childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age requires different knowledge and skills
to assess and treat the various grief reactions. Students will develop an advanced
understanding of the grief process experienced by people from diverse backgrounds (i.e.
religion, race, culture, sexual orientation, physical and mental impairment, inadequate
social and economic resources), for the purpose of enhancing their professionalism and
affirming and respecting the strengths and differences of disparate minority
populations. This course is designed for students to engage each client in an appropriate
working relationship and identify needs, resources and assets for coping with grief
The students will examine exploration of the workers’ own beliefs, responses and
reactions to participating in professional grief work and doing the work with disparate
populations in depth.

The course directly and explicitly enhances the connection of theory and concepts in the
bereavement field, to the needs of clients and the demands of everyday practice. This
commitment is enriched by the following themes that are incorporated into the
   A. Strengths perspective – This perspective recognizes and mobilizes the inherent
      strengths and resiliency of individuals, families, groups, organizations, and
      communities to discover and develop their own and communal resources and
      assets in their challenge to improve their quality of functioning and manage the
      various losses they face.
   B. Critical perspective – This allows the student to engage in a deliberate and
      continuing examination of the assumptions of underlying social work theories,
      methods and approaches developed by various authors in the field of
      bereavement. Discussions will include how to take this information and apply a
      social work frame of reference to address human need.
   C. Social justice – This course will encourage greater inclusion of disenfranchised
      populations understanding the effects of economic, political, and social
      structures on people’s life chances, particularly as it relates to economic
      inequality and the availability of necessary social resources.
   D. Diversity - This allows the vast diversity of how grief and mourning are
      experienced among individuals and within populations to be honored, respected
      and protected, especially with vulnerable, exploited and disenfranchised

III. Course Objectives:
Upon conclusion of the course, students will demonstrate knowledge of:
     1.     Personal and professional anxieties and attitudes about death, loss and
            separation that may interfere with effective social work practice.
     2.     The impact of death and loss at various ages and stages of the life cycle.
     3.     The interpersonal, familial, socio-cultural and institutional dynamics that can
            assist or impede social work practice with the dying and bereaved.
     4.     The grief process and the roles and responsibilities of the social worker in
            providing service to the terminally ill patient and grieving client/family.
     5.     The dynamics of sudden loss and expected loss and the differential grief
            reaction to these.
     6.     The cultural differences that affect the grieving process.
     7.     The variety of social policy and ethical issues related to the needs of dying
            and grieving persons, particularly those members of oppressed populations,
            and how they affect the social workers’ professional practice.
     8.     Address and resolve professional values and ethical dilemmas that occur in
            bereavement situations.
     9.     Apply research to evaluate grief and loss social work interventions.

Upon conclusion of the course, students will demonstrate skill in:
   1.     Methods to differentiate and treat normal and complicated grief reactions
          including crisis intervention/brief therapy, and grief counseling.
   2.     Identifying and planning appropriate interventions with diverse individuals,
          families and groups who are dealing with grief and loss issues.
   3.     The development of culturally appropriate death and loss rituals with
          individuals and families.
   4.     Planning and termination process in practice situations involving
          bereavement issues.
   5.     Identifying and managing counter transference reactions in work with the
IV. Topics
     Tasks, phases, stages, and processes of grief
           o Explanation of various experts in the field and their approaches regarding
               grief will be addressed (Example: Rando, Wolfelt, Worden, Doka, Irish,
     Disenfranchised grievers
     Clinical assessments and tools to use in the process
     Triggers to grief reactions (STUG’s)
     Children and teen issues relating to grief
     Community resources
     Sudden death: murder, accidents, suicides, disasters, acute illness
     Anticipated death: chronic illness, aging, dying processes
     End of life issues including legal documents such as advanced directives
     Widowhood and grief
     Hospice care
     Complicated grief and treatment considerations
     Grief styles – intuitive and instrumental grievers
     Funeral rites and passages
     Death of a child
     Use of rituals in the grief process
     Strengths based, resiliency considerations in treatment
     Cultural diversity of population groups and grief styles (examples)
           o Asian ways of grief
           o Jewish perspectives and grief
           o Muslim/Islamic perspectives and grief
           o African American ways of grief
           o Latino community and grief
           o Native American and grief
           o Buddhism and grief
           o Hinduism and grief
     DSM IV diagnosis pertaining to grief reactions (discussion on use of psychotropic
     Specialized populations and grief and mourning (examples)
           o Natural disasters and grief
           o Deaf community and grief
           o Sexual orientation and grief
           o First responders and grief
           o Pet loss and grief
           o Motherless daughters and grief
           o Violent and traumatic loss and grief
     Healthy self-care for caregivers and professionals in the field
V. Students with Special Needs:
If you are in need of special assistance for any type of disability, please contact Scott
Laurent, Coordinator of Student Disabilities Services at 816-235-5696 or at The Student Disabilities Services office is located on the lower
level of the University Center, room 23. The Student Disabilities Services office can be
located on the Internet at In order to receive
accommodation you will be required to document your particular disability.

VI. Academic Honesty:
The UMKC 2005-2006 Catalog states in the Conduct subsection of Policies and
Procedures at the Graduate and Professional level, “The Board of Curators of the
University of Missouri recognizes that academic honesty is essential for the intellectual
life of the university. Faculty members have a special obligation to expect high
standards of academic honesty in all student work. Students have a special obligation to
adhere to such standards.” Please visit the on-line catalog at to read concise
definitions of behaviors and sanctions related to academic honesty, especially those
pertaining to plagiarism. Students must cite (in both their written and spoken work)
someone else’s thinking whether using a direct quotation or not. The School of Social
Work is adamant that MSW students adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics and learn with
honesty and integrity. Software to detect plagiarism is available to all UMKC professors.

Writing Lab:
Students are expected to utilize APA formatting, and to utilize proper citations when
appropriate. If assistance with writing is needed, a writing lab is available for all UMKC
students at 5201 Rockhill, 235-1146.

Additional student services are available through the university including English as
Second Language. Please contact your advisor, or the administrative center to learn
how to access these services.

VII. Teaching Methods:

A variety of instructional strategies will be employed for the purpose of enhancing the
students’ cognitive understanding, helping them incorporate professional values and
ethics, and enabling them to apply principles and concepts covered in the course to the
actual development of intervention skills. The instructor will make use of lecture, audio-
visual content, and exercises in value clarification, critical thinking, and self-evaluation
to explore major principles, concepts, and content of the course.
VIII. Required and Recommended Texts and Materials:

Rando, T. (1984). Grief, dying, and death: clinical interventions for caregivers. IL:
       Research Press.

Dickinson, G. & Leming, M. R., eds. (2006). Annual Editions: Dying, death, and
       bereavement 08/09. NY: McGraw Dushkin.

IX: Evaluation of Student Performance:
Description of Methods of Evaluation:
        1. Participation: Be prepared to participate in course discussion and activities.
           Prompt and regular attendance is expected.
        2. Readings: Readings should be completed before class meetings.
        3. Assignments:
           See attached packet

X. Grading Policy
    The course requirements are all assigned point values.
    Assignment 1      Experience Essay                               25 points
    Assignment 2      Cross Cultural Paper and Presentation          25 points
    Assignment 3      An Appropriate Death Paper/Forms               20 points
    Assignment 4      Art Project and Presentation                   10 points
    Assignment 5      Opposing Viewpoints (8 @ 2.5 points each)      20 Points

   Students will earn grades based on total points earned in the course.
      A = 94-100              Excellent work, above course expectations
      A- = 91-93
      B+ = 88-90
      B = 84-87              Good work, meets course expectations
      B- = 81-83
      C+ = 78-80
      C = 74-77              Poor work, meets minimal course expectations
      F = 73 and below       Failing work, no graduate credit will be awarded
      I= Incomplete          Used only for serious situations which prevent a student
                             from completing work in a timely fashion. (Ex. Serious
                             illness) Student and instructor must complete a contract
                             regarding when the coursework will be completed.
                             Coursework must be completed prior to the beginning of
                             the next semester in order to qualify as an incomplete.

XI. Class topics and class schedule, including course assignments:
    See attached grid.

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