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The Relevance, Assessment, and Treatment of Death Anxiety in Mental Health Conditions

Rachel E. Menzies, Ross G. Menzies

16 Jun 2023


On June 16th and June 23rd 2023, Dr Rachel Menzies and Dr. Ross Menzies will deliver a full-day workshop across two half-days on the assessment and treatment of death anxiety using a range of evidence-based procedures and protocols.


Research suggests that death anxiety may be a transdiagnostic causal factor in a variety of mental health disorders. Learning how to treat existential dread may be critical for achieving stable, long-term recovery in individuals with a broad range of anxiety and mood-related mental health problems.
Although death anxiety can be associated with the development of productive coping strategies (e.g. seeking achievement, extending the self through family and relationships), it may also drive crippling fear and maladaptive coping mechanisms. As such, it has been argued that the dread of death is a transdiagnostic construct with the potential to underpin a range of mental health problems including panic disorder, illness anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, OCD, the specific and social phobias, separation anxiety disorder, PTSD and depression.
If the dread of death is at the heart of various clinical presentations, treatment approaches which explicitly address these existential fears may be necessary. Conventional treatments which fail to target death anxiety may result in a ‘revolving door’ of individuals presenting with a shifting array of mental illnesses across their lifespan. Notably, recent research has reported relationships between fear of death and various markers of clinical severity, including overall distress, number of lifetime diagnoses and number of hospitalisations. This workshop will present a variety of innovative procedures to manage death anxiety that can be used in conjunction with standard CBT to provide a more comprehensive treatment of a range of mental health disorders.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the session, attendees will learn to:
• Understand the role of death anxiety in underpinning a range of mental health disorders.
• Increase competence in assessing for death-related fears.
• Increase competence in building comprehensive formulations that account for adaptive and maladaptive behaviours in clients.
• Master various cognitive and behavioural procedures and death education used in treating death anxiety.
• Recognize when and how to integrate death anxiety work with standard clinical procedures for mental health disorders.

Training Modalities

The workshop will combine Socratic and didactic components with case examples, and illustrative and interactive elements, including an introduction to the use of film, music, apps, children’s books and related materials in treating existential dread.  

Key References

Menzies, R.E., & Veale, D. (2022). Free Yourself from Death Anxiety: A CBT Self-Help Guide for a Fear of Death and Dying. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishing

Menzies, R. E. & Menzies, R. G. (2021). Mortals: How the fear of death shaped human society. Sydney, Australia: Allen and Unwin. 

Menzies, R. G. & Menzies, R. E. (2019). Tales from the Valley of Death: Reflections from psychotherapy on the fear of death. Samford Valley, Qld: Australian Academic Press.

Menzies, R. G., Menzies, R. E., & Dingle, G. (2022). Existential concerns and cognitive-behavioral procedures: An integrative approach to mental health. Switzerland: Springer Nature.

Menzies, R. E., Menzies, R. G., & Iverach, L. (Eds.) (2018). Curing the dread of death: Theory, research and practice. Samford Valley, Qld: Australian Academic Press. 254pp.

Iverach, L., Menzies, RG., & Menzies, RE. (2014). Death anxiety and its role in psychopathology: Reviewing the status of a transdiagnostic construct. Clinical Psychology Review, 34, 580-593.

Menzies, R.E., & Dar-Nimrod, I. (2017). Death anxiety and its relationship with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126, 367-377.

Menzies, R.E., Zuccala, M., Sharpe, L., & Dar-Nimrod, I. (2018). The effects of psychosocial interventions on death anxiety: A meta-analysis and systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 59, 64-73.

Menzies, R.E., Sharpe, L., & Dar-Nimrod, I. (2019). The relationship between death anxiety and severity of mental illnesses. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 452-467.

Zuccala, M., Menzies, R.E., Hunt, C., & Abbott, M. (2019). A systematic review of the psychometric properties of death anxiety self-report measures. Death Studies, 6, 1-23.

About the presenter

Rachel Menzies is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Fellow at the University of Sydney, where she completed her honours, masters and doctoral degrees in psychology. Rachel published her first paper on death fears in Clinical Psychology Review as an undergraduate student, and followed this by convening a symposium on the topic at the 8th World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies in Melbourne in 2016. Her experimental work on fear of death and psychopathology has been published in several leading journals (e.g. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, British Journal of Clinical Psychology) and she can regularly be heard on national and international radio, popular podcasts and at relevant public events (e.g. The Festival of Death and Dying, Adelaide Writers Week). In 2017, she gave her first invited plenary address on death anxiety, and an invited workshop, at the 47th Congress of the European Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (EABCT). Since then, she has published five books on existential issues and completed an invited workshop tour on the dread of death across seven cities for the Australian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (AACBT). In 2021, she won the national PhD Prize from the Australian Psychological Society for her work of death anxiety and its relationship with mental health. In 2022, along with her co-author and father, Rachel won the Nib People’s Choice Literary Award and the Alex Buso Shortlist Prize for her book, Mortals. Rachel lives with her husband and runs a private practice in the inner city of Sydney.

Ross Menzies completed his undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in psychology at the University of NSW. He is currently Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS). In 1991, he was appointed founding Director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the University of Sydney, a post which he held for over 20 years.  He is the past National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (AACBT). He was the editor of Australia's national CBT journal, Behaviour Change, for 17 years and has trained psychologists, psychiatrists and allied health workers in CBT around the globe. Professor Menzies is an active researcher with three decades of continuous funding from national competitive sources. He has produced 10 books and more than 230 journal papers and book chapters and was the President and Convenor of the 8th World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (WCBCT) in Melbourne in 2016. He has recently been appointed a founding director of the newly formed World Confederation of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies (WCCBT) based in New York.

Who should attend

This workshop is for all mental health professionals interested in understanding how to assess and treat death anxiety. 

Low Intensity clinical contact hours survey - BABCP Low Intensity Special Interest Group

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The BACP Low Intensity SIG are interested in the impact of clinical contact hours on Low Intensity/Wellbeing Practitioner wellbeing. This questionnaire contains six multi-choice questions and a free text box for you to share your experiences. The answers to these questions will help the BABCP SIG plan how to meet CPD topics and other developments within the SIG.  The SIG hope to produce a write up of the answers to this questionnaire to be shared with SIG members and to be used in training.

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This FREE conference is for Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners working in Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression services and is brought to you by Bespoke Mental Health in collaboration with the NHS England Talking Therapies National PWP Leads Network

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