Vital Signs

Psychotherapy From A Near-Death Perspective

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by Catherine Burton, PhD.

Though I have never had a neardeath experience (NDE), my life has been forever changed by what I have learned from those who have. In my professional practice as a psychotherapist, I have also found that the perspective of the NDE can be very effective in the healing, growth, and transformation of clients as they encounter different stages in the human life-cycle.

My first contact with the near-death experience occurred in the 1970s. In graduate school, I met a person who had been in an automobile accident, had had a classic NDE, and overnight changed his worldview, values, and beliefs. He immediately left his job in sales, and decided to become a psychologist. It was striking to witness such an instantaneous transformation. My second experience was reading Dr. Raymond Moody’s book, Life after Life, which helped me to heal my own remaining grief over my father’s death.

The NDE phenomenon also excites and inspires me personally because so many people have, in that brief moment in their lives, directly experienced what I have spent the last 25 years searching for, studying, and practicing to realize in myself. Their experiences, and the growing body of research surrounding them, are now confirming “the perennial wisdom” that the great mystics and sages have been saying all along. Over the years, I gradually began to offer this “wisdom” revealed in the near death perspective to people I work with in my private practice as a clinical psychologist. I would like to share with you the different ways I have applied this expanding knowledge to help people heal, grow, and transform their lives.

Confronting Death

Naturally, I find myself most often applying this knowledge when my clients or their relatives are facing the process of dying. At a pace and in the particular way that is most comfortable for the specific individual, I share some of the common features of reported neardeath experiences, including turning toward the light, going through a tunnel, and meeting loved ones on the other side (Kenneth Ring, PhD, Life at Death). If the dying or elderly person is interested in learning more, I then share with them a book on NDEs, or I lend them my copy of Dr. Moody’s excellent videotape, Life after Life.1 Seeing death as not an ending to life, but as a transition to another dimension of life, greatly lessens their fear of dying.

The families of those making this transition can also be comforted, educated, and given hope by the research that suggests that there really is no death, that their loved one will remain alive in another dimension.

Also, the process of grieving a loved one who has passed on is made easier by the expectation that the grieving person will be reunited with their loved one at the end of their own journey.

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