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Humanising care in the area of death, dying and bereavement


Methodology and Theory of Sciences


Prof Anne Goossensen

Short introduction into the research field

Central topics for future PhD projects will be related to the questions: ‘what is good care’ and ‘how can we understand vulnerable care receivers and their (existential) needs in order to provide a caring response that is experienced as a fit?’ Such questions relate to the quality of caring relations, attention and receptiveness of care givers. More and more reflections on these aspects of care are recognized as essential for care that is impactful for care receivers and the wellbeing of caregivers. The challenge is to refrain from instrumental operationalizations in education, evaluation of care and quality improvement. 

PhD studies appear perfect vessels for in depth inquiries of these themes from the perspectives of care receivers and care givers. Research designs are often phenomenological or ethnographic, using methods as in depth interviewing, shadowing or analysis of ego documents or diaries. 

Research projects can be executed in different care sectors, such as: palliative care, mental health care, care for people with a disability, addiction/Korsakov care, care for homeless, elderly care or hospital care.

Contributions to the UvH research profile and focus (humanization of care, meaning making) are realized via the following entrances: quality of relationships, compassion, ‘presencing’ theories, dignity, narrative quality improvement, care ethical concepts and theories. 

Prof Anne Goossensen was educated as a psychologist with a focus on spirituality and quality of care. Her work identifies the relational dimension of caring. She studies how caregivers see, ‘read’, and understand care receivers and respond to them. In her articles and books she introduced the term ‘mismatch’ for relational misattunement. She addresses topics as: powerlessness, being there, existential loneliness, engrossment, dignity, rituals, mourning.

Example of PhD research

Parents caring for a child with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD) [NWO funded]

Children with PIMD have profound cognitive disabilities and additional impairments such as profound neuromotor dysfunctions, sensory disabilities, skeletal deformations, chronic pulmonary infections and epilepsy syndromes. Caring for such a child is a threat to the family’s wellbeing which appears to be influenced by the socioecological context in which the family lives and stems from. Parents are exposed to numerous and accumulated stressors impacting physical and mental health, financial difficulties and other essential life domains. 

In her study Liesbeth Geuze focusses on these parents’ experiences and their balancing to maintain and protect wellbeing. The study builds on existing academic literature and day-to-day experiences of parents under research from their insiders’ perspective. To clarify tensions further, the study elaborates the specific practical and societal context addressed parents find themselves in. Tensions and challenges will be explored using philosophical views and reflection on care ethical considerations around concepts as vulnerability and resilience. Insights will be contrasted with empirical research among addressed parents living in The Netherlands. The empirical part of the research studies the phenomenon of ‘giving voice’, as the study attempts to collect in-depth knowledge about how parents manage and maintain wellbeing in their lives and how professional help could be designed.

Supervised by professor Anne Goossensen.