The Dutch psychologist and EFT therapist Peter Verboom, along with palliative physician Christiaan Rhodius, are giving a one-and-a-half-hour workshop on attachment and death at the World Summit. The session will focus on what Rhodius calls the “palliative paradox”: that it helps to hold on to each other when you have to let go.

Sometimes, Peter Verboom comes home and tells his wife that he has experienced a significant amount of death in the room. “In 2023, about 10 people I treated passed away,” he says. “I empathize with them, as well as with their partners and families.”

In addition to his private practice, psychologist and EFT therapist Verboom works two days a week at the Helen Dowling Institute in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, offering psychological treatment for individuals with cancer. Verboom was also one of the co-founders of Stichting EFT Nederland fifteen years ago and headed its publishing house.


Grief work

“Death poses a threat to connection. However, in my experience, the more individuals can support each other, the better they can endure death, and the resulting grief for those left behind becomes more manageable. Grief diminishes when genuine connections are felt.” This concept, referred to by palliative physician Christiaan Rhodius, who will co-teach the workshop with Verboom, is known as the palliative paradox: the stronger the connections, the more gracefully death can be accepted.

As a therapist, it’s challenging to broach the subject of death in your treatment room. “We’re not going to teach EFT, but we want people to feel more comfortable with those who are facing the end of their lives and to apply EFT in such situations. I had to learn that myself. What my years at the Helen Dowling Institute have taught me is that it’s mostly about being human. It’s about being present. And sometimes, that requires courage.”


Being human

What does it take for a therapist to feel more at ease with patients confronting mortality? “Confronting your own mortality. That’s relevant at any age; I have many colleagues in their 30s or 40s. But you must be acquainted with your own mortality to effectively support patients grappling with their fear of death. In the workshop, we’ll engage in an experiential exercise on this topic.”

While it may seem daunting to confront death regularly, Verboom shares that it has also brought him significant insights. “It fosters deep connections. Sometimes, it places me in a different role as a therapist. Patients witness my tears as well.”