Counseling Psychology


Interdisciplinary Approaches to Assisting with End-of-life Care and Decision Making

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The importance of interdisciplinary care for patients and families facing the end of life is examined. Descriptions of varying forms of team functioning are provided with an emphasis on the characteristics of high-functioning interdisciplinary teams. The value of empowering the patient and family to direct the care they receive from their team is emphasized. Interdisciplinary team interventions in end-of-life care focus on the biopsychosocial and spiritual dimensions of human experience and facilitate growth and development in the last phase of life. Despite its great promise for improving patient care, the interdisciplinary model is not—with the exception of hospice care—widely implemented in today's health care system. The contributions of interdisciplinary teams to end-of-life care can be enhanced through the development of interdisciplinary team training programs, the creation of payment structures that support the interdisciplinary team model, and continuing research assessing the dynamics of team functioning and the benefits that interdisciplinary team care provides to patients and families near the end of life.