Techniques for framing questions in conducting family meetings in palliative care

Isabelle Dumont, David Kissane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Family therapy has developed several approaches to framing questions within family meetings, but few of these techniques have been adapted for palliative care. We focus on the application of questioning techniques from systemic family therapy to palliative care. More specifically, we describe and give examples of the model of asking questions developed by Karl Tomm (1988) through its application in Family Focused Grief Therapy (FFGT), a preventive intervention delivered to high-risk families during palliative care and bereavement. Methods: First, the type of questions used across the course of therapy is explored based on the interventive questioning model. Then, a case example is provided to demonstrate the use and adaptation of this model in a palliative care setting. Results: At the beginning of therapy, the most frequent questions were linear and circular, moving around the family to build up a picture of events from everyone's perspective. As for the frequency of reflexive and strategic questions, these increased as the therapy progressed, bringing the family to new perspectives. The case example fleshes out the importance of each type of question, all of which have a proper place in the course of therapy. Significance of results: These illustrations highlight the value of having a model of questioning styles to guide the clinician when exploring palliative care issues, such as care provision, coping and grief, intimacy, and discussing death. This framework could be useful in guiding supervisors, trainees, and clinicians seeking to build skills and optimize their interventions in a palliative care setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-170
Number of pages8
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2009


  • Family focused grief therapy
  • Palliative care
  • Questioning styles
  • Systemic family therapy

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