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    Saybrook University
  Apr 25, 2024
2018-2019 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook with Spring Addendum 
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2018-2019 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook with Spring Addendum [Archived Catalog]

Death, Loss, and Meaning Certificate

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Certificate Leads: Ed Mendelowitz, Ph.D. and Robert Schmitt, Ph.D.

Sponsored by: Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology (EHTP), Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health (CSIH), and Creativity Studies (CS)


The Death, Loss, and Meaning Certificate program takes a uniquely humanistic and interdisciplinary approach to the core themes that define it. It is intended to be much more than a training program designed to prepare individuals immersed through their professional work and careers in matters of death and loss, though this will surely figure prominently among the populations it will concretely serve. Death and loss are approached in their literal as well as symbolic elements, life transitions included. This Certificate program will attend to the interrelated nuances of individual, cultural, aesthetic, psycho-spiritual, and religious aspects of death, loss, and meaning while attending to themes relating to lived experience and the passage of time: poignancy, personal narrative, and meaning-making. Program flexibility allows for customization of individual courses of study so as to make possible multifarious aspects and focuses dependent upon personal interests, expectations, and intended career applications.

The Death, Loss, and Meaning Certificate has been uniquely designed with Saybrook’s legacy and calling as a pillar of humanistic values and decorum pervasively in mind. This is a sensibility embracing the dignity and grandeur of life while simultaneously attending to its delimiting and tragic dimensions as well. “There is no sun without shadow,” writes Albert Camus, “and it is essential to know the night.” It is this conjoined feeling for perspective, vision, aesthetics, and character that will pervasively inform this Certificate program and serve as the wellspring to which it will regularly return. The largesse that inheres in the very best of humanistic psychology will both undergird and guide this multidimensional program, one enriched by an ongoing dialogue with the broader humanities - literature, art, film, music, philosophy, and religion. “The love of form,” observes poet Louise Gluck, “is a love of endings.”

Individuals in the healthcare field including nurses, nurse aids, physicians, and administrators routinely working with death and loss or who are in frequent contact with caregivers in these domains should find themselves also well-served by this Certificate program. Many spiritual and religious leaders, too, regularly engaged with individuals facing psychological or spiritual malaise associated with death and loss, are likely to find here much of personal and professional worth. The certificate is also relevant for individuals within these fields specializing in working with major life transitions, such as divorce and life adjustment relating to personal disabilities or the disabilities of family members. For each of these groups, this Death, Loss, and Meaning Certificate program seeks to sharpen awareness and deepen understanding, simultaneously broadening perspective and opening new vistas. “Transiency,” as Rollo May once reflected, “is what makes care possible.”

Curriculum: (Choose 4 of 5 courses)

  • EHTP 3520  Multicultural Perspectives on Death and Loss
  • EHTP 3615  Existential Psychology and Literature
  • CSIH 3205  Spiritual Direction
  • CS 3530  Death and Loss in Literature and Film
  • CS 4535  The Use of Poetry with Death, Loss, and Life Transitions
  • Practicum/Project (focus on 1 of the 3 co-sponsoring specializations)
  • Integrative Paper/Seminar (focus on 1 of the 3 co-sponsoring specializations)

Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of this Certificate, students will be able to…

1. Demonstrate an awareness of the psychological, physical, and spiritual/religious dimensions of death, loss, and life transitions.

2. Utilize knowledge about the physical, psychological, and spiritual/religious dimensions of death, loss, and life transitions in an applied setting.

3. Be able to articulate and utilize foundational existential and humanistic psychology applications relevant to issues of death, loss, and life transitions.

4. Demonstrate sensitivity to a diversity of perspectives on death and loss, including spiritual, religious, and cultural differences.

5. Work with issues of death, loss, life transitions, and meaning in an interdisciplinary context.

6. Demonstrate understanding of the way creative individuals examined the topics of death, loss, and life transitions in media including books, theater, movies, and television.

College of Social Sciences Certificate Programs

Saybrook University’s College of Social Sciences offers a number of exciting certificate programs intended for non-matriculating students (e.g., professionals, activists, community leaders/organizers, etc.) who want to expand or deepen their knowledge and skills pertaining to specific foci.  Our certificate programs offer a variety of topics relevant in today’s world. From existential psychology to integrative healthcare, the College of Social Sciences certificates offer students the humanistic and interdisciplinary education students desire in a convenient certificate program.

Delivery Model

All entering students will begin their program in consultation with the Certificate Lead Faculty in order to clarify requirements and ensure that their interests are integrating within their learning experience. Students can change their study plan later, but need to make an initial plan at the outset, including a tentative plan for a one-year enrollment for those individuals not enrolled in a Saybrook degree program. Typically, certificate requirements can be completed within one to two years (see Certificate Lead Faculty for more details). Students progress through certificate requirements through a combination of on-line cohort courses and either face-to-face experientials during a Saybrook Residential Conference and/or at-a-distance platforms such as video-conference or conference calls. Additionally, students participate in online Graduate Colloquia shells, which are virtual classrooms utilized to foster community among all enrolled in specializations that sponsor the certificates; deepening the learning environment and broadening the application of theory and practice.

These certificates are available to degree and non-degree students alike. Non-degree students who subsequently pursue a degree at Saybrook may be able to transfer credits toward degree requirements.  Students formally enrolled in one of Saybrook’s degree programs may be able to integrate the certificate into their program as the certificate course requirement may satisfy either specialization requirements and/or degree electives.  In the event that a doctoral student wishes to complete more than one Certificate program, only one course (3 credits) may be counted toward a second Certificate. No course overlap may occur for fulfillment of a third (or more) Certificate. In addition, fulfillment of each Certificate requires completion of a unique practicum (CSIH/CS/EHTP/TSC 8151: 3 credits) as well as a unique final paper (CSIH/CS/EHTP/TSC 8950: 1 credit). No overlap of required Certificate coursework will be permitted for M.A. students who wish to declare more than one Certificate.

Core Components

Though each certificate is specific to the area of focus, there are general Core Components or expectations.

  • Required course(s) (3 credits each)
  • Choice of Electives (3 credits each) to be determined in consultation with the Certificate Lead Faculty
  • Practicum/Project (3 credits) which is individually designed by the student in consultation with Practicum Instructor based on his or her interests and goals. This may involve related theory, research, and/or practical application. Several Certificates require the presentation of the Practicum/Project during a Saybrook Residential Conference and/or at-a-distance presentation through video conference platforms such as Go To Meeting or Skype (see Certificate Lead Faculty for more details).
  • Integrative Paper/Seminar (1 credit) which can be a capstone paper, professional poster presentation, or mini-project designed to allow reflection, assessment of progress, integration of experience and academic learning, and forward projection into how one will use these learnings and skills. It also invites a look into other competencies one might still wish to add. (Not all certificates require an integrative paper).


  • Applied Consciousness Studies
  • Arts and Self-Expression for Health and Wellbeing
  • Building A Sustainable World
  • Community Health & Development
  • Complex Trauma & The Health Process
  • Creativity Studies
  • Death, Loss, and Meaning
  • Dream Studies
  • Foundations in Existential-Humanistic Practice
  • Multiculturalism and Social Justice
  • Organizational Leadership & Transformation
  • Peace & Conflict Resolution
  • Professional Studies in Psychophysiology
  • Socially Engaged Spirituality
  • Stress Management Education
  • Transpersonal Psychology


Choose 4 of 5 courses:

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