Inspiring care and compassion to communities in need.

Understanding and dealing with issues related to death, dying, loss and bereavement is something that touches everyone. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate his or her life to supporting and assisting those confronting end-of-life and loss issues. It takes compassion and empathy. And it takes an in-depth knowledge of the many processes, psychological and social issues involved with death and grieving. Marian’s graduate certificate in thanatology is designed to deliver that in-depth knowledge and comprehensive training so you’ll be ready to positively impact lives.

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The Convenience
We have designed our certificate program for working professionals who are looking to earn additional certification without sacrificing their current position or obligations. You’ll complete the program entirely online, and can take advantage of three different program start times throughout the year.

The Marian Reputation
A hallmark of the thanatology program is an accomplished faculty of nationally recognized experts. Our faculty are leaders in the field, regularly publish in significant journals and trade books, are invited to speak at national conferences and bring years of experience working in professional settings. You’ll benefit from their personalized instruction and guidance, and be positioned to form connections with hospitals, hospices, nonprofit organizations and other employers.

For more details regarding this program, view Marian’s Academic Bulletin.

Sample Course Plan:
Download Sample Course Plan

Certificate Curriculum, 12 credits:

Introduction to death, dying, grief and bereavement. Topics include the dying process; end-of-life decision making; disposition of remains/use of corpses; grief & mourning; death competence; family/individual interpretations; spiritual/religious perspectives; suicide; ethical and legal aspects; cross-cultural considerations.

Examination of bereavement theory and techniques in individual and group facilitation skills. Topics include assessment of complicated grief; techniques for helping the bereaved after special losses; attending to individual spiritual needs; cross-cultural considerations; lifespan issues; setting appropriate boundaries; self-care for the caregiver; confidentiality.

Examines concepts of immortality related to death, dying, grief and bereavement including Western philosophical and religious beliefs. Topics include an examination of contemporary perspectives towards death, dying, and bereavement practices within Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Native American communities. Emphasis on practical/effective spiritual care techniques for assisting individuals, families, and health care providers in their quest for meaning, growth and transition through the dying and grieving process.

Examination of applied ethics related to end-of-life care and bereavement services. Topics include the definition of death and brain death, do-not-resuscitate orders, advance directives, patient privacy, confidentiality, end-of-life decision-making, moral and ethical frameworks, theory versus praxis.

6 credits from the following:

Exploration of how research contributes to the identification of best practices in thanatology. Topics include scientific methods & techniques used specifically in contemporary thanatology research, emphasis on qualitative & mixed methods; critical reading & use of thanatology research studies; theories and methods of data collection, analysis, and interpretation; IRB issues; research ethics; & study design.

Examination of the attitudes & responses of children and teens to death, loss, and grief, in context of human developmental stages. Topics include strategies for working with families and caregivers of terminally ill children/teens; facilitating communication between healthcare providers & families; strategies for helping children/teens in the midst of family illness; & models of bereavement programs.

Introductory examination of current theories of the causes of suicide, and contemporary approaches to prevention, intervention and post-intervention. Topics include nomenclature, current and emerging theoretical models, suicide across the life span, cultural contexts, suicide in the military and among combat veterans.

Examines the impact of sudden, unexpected death including implications for bereavement, first-responder effectiveness, and impact on communities. Topics include military death, accidents, disasters, homicide, suicide, crisis intervention, critical incident stress management, community response activities, & grief support.

Prerequisites:

Examination of suicide among children & teens. Topics include prevalence of suicide among children, youth & older adolescents; screening; prevention; intervention; post-intervention; stressors including AODA, LGBTQ and cultural issues, evidence-based programs, current research & best practices.

Examination of the practical elements of program design, development, implementation and assessment. Topics include examination of existing and emerging program models; volunteer recruitment and training, funding, working with other agencies and organizations, board recruitment, governance, and utilization.

Prerequisites:

In-depth examination of suicide prevention & postvention program design, implementation and assessment. Topics include evidence-based programs, current research and best practices.

Examination of the history, theory and practice of hospice and palliative care. Topics include the palliative approach to medicine; the medical aspects of dying; terminal disease trajectories; “active” dying and the dying process; and multidimensional aspects of pain control. Also includes practical strategies for assisting families in communicating with healthcare providers; the impact of end-stage terminal illness on caretakers and family members; and self-care for caregivers.

Exploration of the personal and community spiritual resources that undergird effective care of the dying and bereaved. Topics include philosophies of spiritual formation; theories of spiritual formation in the context of hospice; spiritual growth techniques and exercises. Spiritual formation throughout the process of terminal diagnosis, dying process, death, bereavement, and for caregivers will be addressed.

Examination of cultural contexts of death, dying and bereavement through literature. Topics include themes of death & bereavement in novels, short story, drama, poetry, elegy and music, and how literature can be used in work with the dying & bereaved.

The Master of Science and Graduate Certificate in Thanatology programs offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and scientific study of the dying and grieving process; cultural attitudes towards death and loss; spirituality and ethical standards; suicide prevention education; applied research; and the spiritual, social, psychological and medical aspects of dying, death, loss and grief. Our curriculum is aligned with the Association for Death Education and Counseling’s (ADEC) Body of Knowledge, and prepares students to take the ADEC certification examination. As a graduate, you’ll be prepared to find employment in areas like churches, funeral homes, hospices, hospitals and non-profit organizations, among others.

Mission

The mission of the Edwin S. Shneidman Program in Thanatology is to educate students from diverse backgrounds in the fundamental concepts, knowledge, research, techniques and skills of thanatology in order to (1) prepare them for employment in a wide variety of thanatology-related positions and (2) prepare them to contribute to the discipline of thanatology academically and professionally.

The Program is committed to the education of the whole person, integrating professional preparation with a liberal arts foundation and embracing justice, compassion, and service to the local and global community. The five core values of Marian University of community, learning, service, social justice and spiritual traditions inspire and inform the curricula within this Program.

Graduates of this program will:

  • Recognize and articulate the foundational assumptions, central ideas, and dominant criticisms of contemporary thanatology theory and practice,
  • Demonstrate competence in applying thanatology evidence-based best practices in needs assessment and support services/program development, delivery and assessment for individuals and families confronting the end of life, death, loss and bereavement including bereavement after natural death, traumatic death, in various cultural contexts, and across the life span;
  • Design and implement educational programs on death, the dying process, end-of-life decision making, and bereavement topics for communities and professional audiences,
  • Analyze, synthesize and evaluate the relationship between religious and spiritual belief systems and the reaction to and coping with death, and incorporate these elements appropriately into service delivery,
  • Conduct and evaluate thanatology action research critically and reflectively,
  • Participate effectively in the academic and professional community, and
  • Identify and discuss common ethical issues with individuals and families.

Our graduates have good employability, and it is important to recognize that some come to the program for the additional content knowledge it provides for them to be more successful in their thanatology-related positions. Our first graduate was hired as a hospice bereavement program coordinator while still a student in the program, and was offered the position over applicants with MSW degrees.

There is no accreditation for thanatology education programs. However, the primary international professional association for thanatology, the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), has identified a Body of Knowledge (BoK) matrix that guides curriculum and practitioner credentialing.

Marian University’s (MU) thanatology curriculum and learning outcomes align closely with the ADEC Body of Knowledge and the Foundations of Thanatology course (THA605) utilizes the ADEC sponsored Meagher D. & Balk D. (2013)Handbook of Thanatology: The Essential Body of Knowledge for the Study of Death, Dying and Bereavement, 2nd Edition (Routledge Press, New York, NY) as a core text. This course introduces the field of thanatology to students, facilitates discussion on the meaning of death, and offers them a glimpse into the breadth and depth of the discipline, starting them on their way to becoming scholar-practitioners.

ADEC’s Certification in Thanatology (CT)© and Fellow in Thanatology (FT)©programs aim to protect the public by creating a standard for thanatology practice, while helping professionals develop and demonstrate their mastery of knowledge of issues related to death, dying and bereavement. Marian University’s thanatology program is pre-approved as educational contact hours for ADEC Certification (CT) candidates, and once they meet the application criteria, they are allowed to take the certification examination.

Individuals with Master’s or Doctoral degrees plus 5 years of experience in the discipline (paid or volunteer) can apply for FT status without earning the CT first, which means that Marian University thanatology graduates can apply for and attain advanced certification right away provided they have relevant experience and take the certification examination.

Information on ADEC can be found at www.adec.org.

Marian University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission into the Graduate Certificate in Thanatology, the applicant must submit the following:

  • A completed Marian University application form
  • A $50 non-refundable application fee
  • An official transcript from each college or university attended
  • Cumulative GPA of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale. Students may be considered for admission on a probationary status with less than a 2.75 GPA
  • Two confidential letters of recommendation
  • Career goal statement

 

Transfer of Credit Policy

Students can transfer up to 9 credits into the graduate program; each possible transferrable course is reviewed individually. Each course must be less than 7 years old.

Jean Rogers approached Thanatology later in her career. Already having a Master’s Degree in Counseling, Jean chose the Graduate Certificate in Thanatology with a plan to utilize her studies in retirement. With a background in counseling and advising elementary through college students and individuals with disabilities, Jean began teaching part-time in the Social Studies field in the Wisconsin Technical College System. This allowed her to dedicate time as a volunteer Facilitator for the Center for Grieving Children and as a Hospice Volunteer with Affinity. Jean holds a Certification in Thanatology (CT) from the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) and is an Instructor for the Children, Teens and Death undergraduate course at Marian University.


Dr. (Chaplain) John South, USA Ret. is truly a lifelong learner. He holds a bachelor of Criminal Justice Degree, a Master of Divinity Degree, a Doctor of Ministry Degree and a Graduate Certificate in Grief and Bereavement from Marian University, which he completed in 2011. His military education includes the Army Chaplain Schools, C & GS and the Army War College including a Master’s in Strategic Studies. Across his education he has had a special interest in Suicidology and suicide prevention/intervention.

His major enlisted assignments: 3rd Armor Division Freiberg, Germany, 1st Infantry Division Republic of Vietnam. He entered the Army Reserve Chaplaincy in June 1982. Chaplain assignments include: 313th MASH, Ft. Vancouver, WA; 164th CSG, Phoenix, AZ; 259th MI. BN, Phoenix, AZ; and Command Chaplain 63 RRC, Los Alamitos, CA. He has served as a police chaplain for the past 30 years in Portland, OR and Phoenix, AZ. He assisted ATF teams in Colorado in 1999 after the Columbine shootings, worked with ATF employees affected by the 9/11 in NYC, and conducted PTSD briefings for ATF agents deployed to Iraq to Iraqi police.

His awards and decorations include: Purple Heart; Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal; Army Commendation with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters; Army Achievement with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters; Meritorious Unit Commendation; Army Superior Unit Award; Army Reserve Component Achievement Award 3, National Defense Service Medal 2; Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon 2; Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon 2; Combat Infantry Badge; and The Global War on Terrorism Medal.

He says: “I chose Marian University because I was seeking a graduate level university that had a degree or advanced certificate in suicide intervention and grief support. A professor friend at NYU highly recommended Marian University. She advocated I talk to Dr. Janet McCord. The courses were outstanding and continue to be beneficial in my ministry in helping police officers, soldiers, and family members that deal with PTSD and suicidal ideation on a daily basis.”

FULL TIME FACULTY

Janet S. McCord, PhD, FT, Associate Professor
Jsmccord12@marianuniversity.edu
Thanatology Department Chair; Edwin S. Shneidman Program in Thanatology Chair

 

PART TIME FACULTY

Rebecca Morse, PhD
Rsmorse46@marianuniversity.edu

Brad DeFord, PhD
Rbdeford06@marianuniversity.edu

Judith H. Prather, DMin
Jhprather48@marianuniversity.edu

Christina M. Zampitella, PsyD, FT
Cmzampitella58@marianuniversity.edu

For more information, please contact:

Office of Admission
920.923.7650
admission@marianuniversity.edu

Questions about the Thanatology Curriculum can be addressed to:
Janet S. McCord, PhD, FT
Jsmccord12@marianuniversity.edu

 

J. McCord ADEC video

Inspired to serve, Professor Janet McCord describes how Marian’s thanatology program prepares students to help others through grief and loss. Click here to learn more.