Dr. Abigail Nathanson is a New York City-based licensed psychotherapist, board-certified palliative social worker and co-author of the forthcoming book “The Practice of Clinical Social Work in Healthcare” from Springer Press.
Let It Break – an essay about death anxiety and demoralization during the pandemic, written with my colleagues Bridget Sumser, Shirley Otis-Green & BJ Miller
Navigating Illness, Caregiving, and Loss
Helping people cope with the impacts of medical issues
While illness and grief are universal, our own unique experiences drive how we understand it, what patterns and meaning we recognize within it and how we integrate them into the rest of our lives.
Whether your “new normal” is an illness, caregiving or bereavement, you have a lot to wrap your head around. It can overwhelm all of the ways you knew how to be in the world before. The impacts on how you feel, how you act and how you relate can be immense. While family and friends often try to help, many people find that specialized therapy and care planning offers a level of additional support during challenging times.
Mourning is more than the stages of grief and chronic illness is more than just being sick.
Navigating these existential, practical and emotional experiences demands courage and sensitivity at times when you may already be feeling overwhelmed. My goal is to bring you a warm, flexible, non-judgmental space informed by extensive experience in healthcare and the latest in evidence-based approaches to help you cope and heal.
I have over 15 years of experience working in healthcare with people who are seriously ill or dying and with their caregivers, with healthcare professionals and with those in mourning.
I hold board certification in palliative care and have written, taught and researched in areas such as bereavement, caregiving, death anxiety and coping with serious illness. I received both my master’s and my doctorate in social work from New York University, where I am still on faculty part-time. I also hold advanced post-graduate certifications in Palliative and End-of-Life Care and in Clinical Supervision, and advanced trauma training in AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy).
Please see the button on the left or click HERE for more information about my background, professional accomplishments and training.
- Individual Psychotherapy: Meet one-on-one to process what you’re going through and develop new ways to cope and heal (45-minute session, service eligible for out-of-network reimbursement if insurance benefit allows)
- Meaning Centered Psychotherapy (8-week program – individual) Click HERE for more information about this specific treatment modality from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, appropriate for all diagnoses and bereavement with modifications (service eligible for out-of-network reimbursement if insurance benefit allows)
- Family Meetings: Short-term, solutions-focused conflict resolution to develop care plans as a family or navigate caregiving roles (60 minute session, not eligible for insurance reimbursement)
- Care Planning: Provides practical guidance and emotional support from a board-certified Palliative Social Worker for advanced care planning & treatment planning (billable by the hour, not eligible for insurance reimbursement)
- Professional Consultations: For professionals seeking guidance on their cases or feedback on their practice, or for coordinated speciality adjuvant session work (45-minute session)
Bearing Witness & Caregiving
When someone important to you is sick, your life can change. For some, bearing witness to illness brings long-standing, difficult relationship patterns to the forefront, and for others, the logistical and emotional demands of caregiving can overwhelm, isolate and exhaust. For many, the vulnerability felt in considering one’s own mortality can leave us grappling with how to make sense of our lives now.
Living with Serious Illness
Living with chronic, life-threatening or terminal illnesses present unique challenges.
There are issues common to living with a serious illness: changes in roles and abilities, struggles with hope, fears about the future, communication with family, friends and medical providers, chronic pain and fatigue, and complex healthcare systems to navigate in decision-making. As a board-certified palliative social worker, I have specific expertise in helping people adapt to and navigate the emotional, familial and logistical demands of serious illness.
After a Death or Loss
There is nothing quite like losing someone important to you, whether due to illness, accident or other causes. Many people have heard of the five stages of grief, but in the moment, find themselves unsure of how to cope. When the relationship was particularly complex, bereavement becomes complex, too, and therapy can be particularly helpful. While everyone experiences losses, your experience is unique to what you’ve been through, to who you are and to what matters to you. Processing your experience with a trained clinician can help you heal, integrate the loss and figure out what comes next.
Working with those who are ill and with their families can be both immensely rewarding and an ongoing challenge to stay emotionally invested. Burnout, compassion fatigue and demoralization can make people check out or leave the field. Many professionals find that with the right support, they can find sustainable, gratifying connection to their work.