Psychosocial Seminar: Individuals, Families and Society Connections

Categories: Care and Education.

[Fr] Social worker Zelda Freitas’, career has been focused in health and social services as well as in home care in the community setting. She has also been involved in education, research and the transfer of knowledge. She is currently a clinical senior advisor in professional practice for the CIUSSS West Central Montreal.

Together with social workers Patrick Duvirage and Susan Blacker, she is the co-organizer of the psychosocial all-day seminar entitled, Psychosocial Seminar in Palliative Care: Individuals, Families and Society Connections.

Devon Phillips (DP):

Congratulations on the organization of the all-day seminar in the psychosocial stream entitled, Individuals, Families and Society Connections. Speakers include Terry Altilio, Maxxine Rattner, Tamara Sussman, Shirley Otis-Green and Sharon Baxter. Wow- this quite the line-up! How will you be bringing all these perspectives together in your seminar?

Zelda Freitas (ZF):

We are very excited to bring such a wealth of knowledge to this particular seminar. I am bringing together expertise in psychosocial palliative care starting with Terry Attilio who many might recognize in the palliative care field – she is a scholar, educator, social worker by training, and co-editor of the Oxford textbook on palliative social work. We are happy to have her with us for sure.

This seminar came together with our planning committee, myself and Patrick Duvirage who is a social worker in home care at the CIUSSS West Central Montreal as well as Susan Blacker from Ontario who works as well in palliative care.

We also consulted with several colleagues including those at the McGill school of social work and Kathy Kortes-Miller from Lakehead University. We discussed our goals and then reached out to people with expertise and innovation in social work. So that’s how it came about. We are excited about the line up!

DP: Tell me about the focus of your psychosocial seminar. What key messages do you hope to deliver to those who will be attending?

ZF: The message is that social work and psychosocial practice are really important aspects in the delivery of palliative care. The approach is holistic as well as a multidisciplinary.

We wanted to make sure to highlight one of the disciplines that contribute to excellent delivery of palliative care service. We also want to address the different dimensions of this delivery of services highlighting that social work and psychosocial care is quite complex, diverse and very multidimensional.

Of course they’ll be a psychosocial stream throughout the congress so there will be lots of offerings with really good speakers and innovative practice, but what we wanted to do for this one day is to bring together the various levels of work that social workers participate in – what individual approaches are used, how do we work with families, and to also look at the societal context of our work. So that’s where the title, Individuals, Families and Society Connections, comes from. We will be bringing all those connections and perspectives together.

We see all those different dimensions in our approach. We have a wonderful speaker, Sharon Baxter, who is going to bring it all together in terms of advocacy in psychosocial practice – what does that mean? Well, we advocate at the individual level when we work one on one with people, and we also advocate when we work with families, within our teams, within our organizations, and within larger society. It is our our role to do this. We wanted to make sure that we highlighted these various aspects of what we bring to palliative care.

DP: Sounds like a great seminar. People come to the congress from many different countries, organizations, and of course different professions. Would you recommend your session to a particular group of learners?

a consoling hand on shoulder

ZF: We gave a lot of thought to who our audience might be. We did not want to exclude any psychosocial professional and we know that psychosocial professionals go under a number of different titles in Canada and internationally. We wanted to make sure the seminar is of interest to a number of different professionals and groups, and that’s why we refer to” psychosocial care” as opposed to “social work”.

We know that this seminar will be of interest to anyone who works within the realm of psychosocial practice and others as well who have an interest in this area. For example, one of our speakers, Maxxine Rattner is going to be talking about non-pain suffering and that will speak to a number of different practitioners within palliative care.

So this seminar will have a wide appeal and participants will see that there are many sessions within this all-day seminar that will be of interest to them.

DP: Sounds like a highly relevant session for participants. Any further thoughts about your seminar that you would like to share?

ZF: This is the inaugural seminar of psychosocial practice within palliative care and we are very excited to start off with great speakers and with great interest. We hope that people are also interested in finding what they need from that day and we are certainly looking forward to hearing back from those who attend and connecting with people during that day. We continue to build on that and build our community of practice across the world in terms of psychosocial practice in palliative care because it is such a strong component.

We know that palliative care is a holistic approach that incorporates the whole person and psychosocial care is so important.

It touches a number of different professions but it is also important to concentrate and take a look at how we practice that: what does it mean to support individuals who are dying? What does it mean to support families that are caring for individuals that are dying and what it means to support families and caregivers?

How do we deliver the best care given the challenges and there are challenges all over the world regarding delivering best care to everyone: where to deliver it, how to deliver it. So it’s a great conversation to start and we are very happy to part of the McGill International Palliative Care Congress to get this conversation off the ground, not just with psychosocial practitioners but by bringing more people into the congress and building the community.

DP: We are thrilled that your session will be part of this year’s congress. What role does the McGill Palliative Care Congress play in the palliative care community?

ZT: I think the Congress is such important part of palliative care.

I started attending the congress a long time ago, and I always felt and I still feel that I walk away from the congress with a sense of community, a sense of renewal which I think is so important.

It’s part of self-care to be able to be with and talk with those that are like-minded, who have the same mission and vision. It enriches our practice and the service we provide and I think it really enriches palliative care across the world.

We can have those conversations with people and learn from each other. The international congress provides us with that opportunity that I don’t think any other congress that I have gone to has done. And I don’t think we can do without it!

You see familiar faces that come back, you make connections, you look forward to seeing them again, seeing what’s they’re up to, what’s new and how can we better deliver services. That is an amazing – to develop a sense of community across the world! We can go back to our work settings and be re-energized, thinking about innovation and development.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

For more information and to register: The McGill International Palliative Care Congress, Oct 18-21, 2022.


This article is reprinted with permission of Palliative Care McGill and the McGill Council on Palliative Care from their newsletter, Palliative Care in Action, 2022.  Copyright © 2022 McGill University

Original Article,

 For French Version

McGill University’s International Palliative Care Congress is the longest running congress for this field. Founded in 1976 by Dr. Balfour Mount and his colleagues, it is now organized and hosted biennially by Palliative Care McGill. Over 1,500 delegates, from more than 65 countries participate in making this one of the most interdisciplinary palliative care congresses. Every other year physicians, researchers, nurses, psychologists, social workers, pharmacists, music therapists, art therapists, physical therapists, spiritual care workers, volunteers and many others gather from around the globe to learn from and with each other for the betterment of palliative care. Please join us in celebrating and enriching palliative care around the world.
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