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Professional Development Courses

Tuesday, April 28 and Wednesday, April 29
8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The Professional Development courses are offered in addition to the conference, as an opportunity for attendees to deepen their knowledge in an environment tailored to their current level experience in the field. Spend two full days with some of the finest minds in thanatology, and enjoy a unique and inspiring learning experience.

Separate registration is required.

ADEC reserves the right to cancel any specialty workshop or professional development course that does not attain minimum registration numbers. Registrants in a cancelled course will be informed and given the option to choose another session or receive a refund.

Essentials Course: Dying, Death and Bereavement
Faculty: Harold Ivan Smith, DMinn, FT

This course is intended for those in both counseling and education who wish to enhance their expertise in the field of thanatology. As such, this course will be helpful for professionals (nurses, physicians, psychologists, social workers, chaplains, funeral directors, police, EMTs, etc.) as well as individuals who are working as volunteers or support staff working with critically ill, dying or bereaved individuals.

The Essentials Course gives an overview and summary of the field of thanatology based upon the Body of Knowledge Matrix published by ADEC. It explores the social, cultural, psychological, legal, ethical, and spiritual issues raised by illness, dying, death and bereavement. All information is relevant to everyday life and most specifically to those practitioners providing death education, as well as those supporting the dying and bereaved. The course explores the meaning of death and examines personal attitudes and fears to understand the grieving process and basic grief support throughout the life span. The course will focus on learning techniques for applying theory and research to expand your knowledge and skills. Comprehensive and interdisciplinary, it presents the essential topics and core knowledge for death-related counseling and death education.

About Your Instructor:

Harold Ivan Smith, DMin, FT served as a bereavement specialist for eighteen years on the teaching faculty of Saint Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri, and is now a celebrant for Forest Lawn Funeral Home in Palm Springs, California. He has a certificate from the Mid-American School of Funeral Service and graduate degrees from Scarritt College and Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. He earned the doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is recognized as a Fellow in Thanatology by the Association for Death Education and Counseling. 

He has presented scholarly papers at over twenty ADEC annual conferences and has been an enthusiastic poster presenter. His closing keynote for ADEC 2019 was “Oh, I could never do what you do.” He is known as a story-teller. His major area of research is on grief and bereavement in the White House. He has published, Eleanor: A Spiritual Biography: The Faith of the 20th Century's Most Influential Woman and currently is writing about President Harry Truman. His writing includes numerous journal articles and articles in funeral magazines. His books include: Borrowed Narratives: Using Historical and Biographical Narratives With the Bereaving; When You Don’t Know What to Say (Rev. ed); When A Child You Know Is Grieving; The Long-Shadowed Grief:  Suicide and Its Aftermath; A Decembered Grief: Gift edition


Intermediate Course: Grief Counseling

Faculty: Jane Vair Bissler, PhD, LPCC-S, FT

This course is designed for all professionals who have at least two years of experience working with the bereaved and/or the dying.

The Intermediate Course examines key concepts related to the human response to loss and the facilitation of healthy bereavement, with a bilateral focus on working with individuals who have lost an important loved one as well as individuals who are dying. Death competence is emphasized as a prerequisite for effective clinical care of the bereaved and the dying.

Using the most current research and theory available in the field, you learn about models of grief experience, forces that contribute to risk and resilience in bereavement outcomes, and developmental, cultural, family, and other mediating factors in normal, uncomplicated bereavement and in the dying process.  The use of ritual as a coping response to facilitate mourning and development of creative therapeutic interventions receive special attention. Sound approaches to enhancing self-care and preventing burnout are provided.  Videotaped examples of actual counseling sessions are included throughout the two-day course.

This highly interactive course gives you the opportunity to explore specific strategies and counseling tools to effectively support individuals, couples, families or groups coping with loss or facing an impending death. You will be given the opportunity to critically reflect with peers about the impact of grief and loss on your own professional work.  A variety of teaching techniques are woven throughout the course to help you transfer the skills you learn in the course to your own work setting.

About Your Instructor:

Jane Vair Bissler, PhD, LPCC-S, FT is a clinical counselor, teacher, writer and speaker specializing in grief and bereavement. Over the past 30 years, she has counseled hundreds of grieving individuals, couples, families and groups through Counseling for Wellness in Kent, OH. Dr. Bissler taught at Kent State University for seventeen years in the Master's and Ph.D. clinical counseling programs. She has co-written three books on grief and one about clients having loving connections with their deceased loved ones. For the past 28 years, she has written a weekly grief question and answer newspaper column and has keynoted and spoken at numerous international, national, state and local conferences.

Recommended Texts:
Gamino, L. A., & Ritter, R. H., Jr. (2009). Ethical practice in grief counseling. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Worden, J. W. (2009). Grief counseling & grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner. (4th Ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Company.


Advanced Course: Complicated Bereavement and Grief Therapy

Faculty: Darcy L. Harris, R.N., R.S.W., Ph.D., FT, and Carrie Arnold, PhD

This course is intended for psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, nurses, physicians, pastoral counselors, or anyone with professional training seeking advanced skill development in bereavement intervention with challenging cases.

As contemporary models of bereavement have become more nuanced and empirically informed, so too have the practices available to counselors and therapists contending with complicated and prolonged grief in their clients.  This two-day workshop offers in-depth training in several of these techniques, nesting them both within the therapy relationship and in the context of current theories focused on attachment, the dual processes of coping with loss and restoring life, and meaning reconstruction.  Throughout, we ground principles and practices in contemporary research that provides flexible frameworks for intervention. Making extensive use of actual clinical videos as well as how-to instruction in the use of numerous therapeutic tools, we will discuss and practice several methods for helping clients integrate the reality of the loss into the ongoing story of their lives, while also reorganizing their continuing bond to their loved one.

About Your Instructors:

Darcy L. Harris, PhD, FT, is an Associate Professor and the Thanatology Coordinator at King’s University College in London, Canada, where she also maintains a private clinical practice specializing in issues related to change, loss, and transition. Dr. Harris developed the undergraduate degree program in Thanatology at King’s University College in London, Canada. In addition, she is a faculty member of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition, dedicated to post-graduate training in grief therapy leading toward Certification in Meaning Reconstruction in Loss. She has served on the board of directors of the Association for Death Education and Counseling and is a current member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement. 
She is a series co-editor for Routledge Publishing Company’s Death, Dying, and Bereavement Series and she is an internationally-recognized speaker and author.  Her publications include Counting our Losses: Reflecting on Change, Loss, and Transition in Everyday Life (Routledge), Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society: Bridging Research and Practice (Routledge), Principles and Practice of Grief Counseling (Springer), The Handbook of Social Justice in Loss and Grief: Exploring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Routledge) and her newly-released book, Non-Death Loss and Grief:  Context and Clinical Implications (Routledge).

Carrie Arnold obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology, a Master of Education (Counselling), both from the University of Western Ontario, and a Ph.D. (Psychology) from Saybrook University. She is a Certified Canadian Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, is registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and is an approved service provider with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada. Dr. Arnold provides psychotherapy to adolescent and adult clients in the areas of grief, loss, and trauma. Her publications include articles on issues related to the experiences of adolescent girls, attachment and loss, and an edited volume entitled Understanding Child and Adolescent Grief: Supporting Loss and Facilitating Growth (Routledge). Additionally, Dr. Arnold has launched The Grief and Loss Research Lab at King’s University College. Research interests include the use of photo narrative with the bereaved, as well as medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Carrie is currently an assistant professor, thanatology, at King’s University College at Western University.