INTRODUCTION: Dignity therapy, which has recently been developed to reduce
psychosocial and spiritual distress in terminally ill patients, has stimulated substantial
interest worldwide. This new form of structured life review has not previously been
researched in the United Kingdom. This study aimed to explore the experiences of
specialist palliative care patients in Scotland undertaking dignity therapy and to establish
whether or not they would recommend it to fellow patients.
METHOD: Eight patients (seven female and one male) participated in the Dignity
Psychotherapy Question Protocol (DPQP), followed by a semi-structured research
interview. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim, before being
analysed using a grounded theory approach to develop a provisional framework.
RESULTS: The findings suggest that patients perceived dignity therapy in a
predominantly positive light. They considered the patient-researcher rapport, in terms of
listening and compassion, to be especially helpful and to have facilitated the therapeutic
encounter. The analysis also identified four beneficial components of this therapy: a)
looking back b) sharing their memories c) getting things off their chest and d) putting
their story on paper. Based on their experiences, the majority of patients reported that
they would recommend this intervention to fellow patients.