All social workers encounter complex and diverse forms of loss throughout their practice. Working with Loss, Death and Bereavement helps trainee and practitioners navigate these difficult situations by developing the skills and values necessary for effective and empowering practice. Each chapter is grounded in social work theory and is illustrated by practice scenarios, exercises, suggestions for further study, and contemporary cultural examples from novels and films.

Psychological Theories

Psychological theories

Chapter Contents

  • The ways that losses are defined
  • The core psychological theories
  • What is meant by ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ grief
  • How theories relate specifically to death-related loss and to loss in all its aspects
  • The move from the intrapersonal to the interpersonal


This chapter builds on the discussion initiated in the Introduction, drawing out the psychological theories as they relate to the internal, or intrapersonal world of individuals who have experienced loss. There is a description of how loss is categorized, such as physical/practical, symbolic, psychosocial and with special emphasis on disenfranchised loss.

Links are made with the case work tradition within social work. The key theoretical traditions are identified as psychoanalysis; loss and attachment; existentialism and the humanistic school represented by gestalt. Their competing and complementary perspectives are ...

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