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The Power and Potential of Language 

The Power and Potential of Language
The Power and Potential of Language
Oxford Textbook of Palliative Social Work

Terry Altilio


This textbook on palliative social work is a companion volume to the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine and the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Nursing. To that end, this chapter will accomplish the following:

Although intended to clarify, the words we choose in our verbal and written communication also have the potential to confuse and complicate matters for colleagues, patients, and families.

Social workers are trained to listen for and raise consciousness of the implicit and explicit messages in palliative care communication.

Palliative and end-of-life communication has integrated words and unique phrases that require clinical attention to insure that their meaning and intention are clear to patients and families.

Illness and specific diseases such as cancer are replete with metaphors that may or may not be therapeutic and congruent with the values and personhood of patients and families.

Metaphors may provide insight into the cognitive and emotional aspects of the illness experience and can help make sense of behaviors, emotional responses, and decisions.

Vigilance to the language and metaphors used by patients, families, and professionals creates opportunities for a range of clinical interventions.

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