Live Online Training

Re-Composing the Self & System:
Composition Work in the Wake of Loss


Ella (by Filippo Giusti)

July 11, 2022

9am-12pm, PDT

Presented by

Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD


Portland Institute for Loss and Transition

Professor Emeritus

Department of Psychology, University of Memphis

USD$99 for 3-hour module

As the bereaved struggle to find new meaning and re-construct their lives following loss, they can benefit from exploring how this major life transition shifted or shattered their personal and relational identity, and from projecting a new configuration of a changed self in a similarly reconfigured family and social system.

This module introduces Composition Work, a flexible method for visualizing one’s “community of self,” which is grounded in the Dialogical Self Theory of Hubert Hermans, and applies it in the context of grief therapy.  Using small stones, shells and other natural objects, clients work under the guidance of the therapist to represent their relation to specifically relevant I-positions corresponding to significant roles, emotion states, and internalized others in their family or broader social world.  Following a stepwise procedure, they then trace transformations in the system of relationships that constitute their personal and relational world in response to the loss, as they then project into an unanticipated future.

In this process, clients can benefit from a symbolic dialogue with different elements, including the deceased, to discover and integrate new internal resources, re-negotiate the bond, and explore a different possible composition of their own identity and life that includes the loved one in a new way, even in the person’s physical absence.  As varied positions and emotions involved in the relationship are symbolized, differentiated, mapped and reorganized, mourners are better equipped to broaden their understanding of themselves in context, draw on somatic awareness of previously unvoiced aspects of self, and promote personal reconstruction in a changing constellation of post-loss identity.


  • Describe the relevance of Dialogical Self Theory in conceptualizing the self in the context of significant relationships to relevant others, including the deceased;

  • Differentiate emotionally salient I-positions related to a deceased person and others in the family and social system;

  • Apply Composition Work (CW) to access, differentiate and symbolize a variety of self-aspects and feelings involved in adapting to transition and loss;

  • Facilitate a dialogue between a variety of self-aspects to process possible unfinished business and envision a new symbolic bond with that which was lost; and 

  • Visualize significant shifts in the broader family system as a function of the loss, and promote their adaptive realignment.

Note:  Attendance of the live online training session confers credit of 1 Practicum Session required for Certification in Grief Therapy as Meaning Reconstruction, Certification in Family-Focused Grief Therapy or Certification in Grief Therapy for Non-Death Losses.


  • Summary of key features of Dialogical Self Theory as applied to grief;

  • Description of materials required for Composition Work (CW)

  • Step-by-step instructions for guiding clients through CW as applied to past, present and potential future configurations of relational identity;

  • Variations on CW to access and dialogue with unspoken I-positions that can be somatically experienced, symbolically represented, and systemically integrated into a changed configuration of self; and

  • Facilitative questions for reflectively processing the richness of the CW experience and promoting self-change.


  • 9am-12pm, PDT: Portland, OR, which corresponds to 12-3pm in New York, 5-8pm in London, and 6-9pm in Amsterdam.

The Zoom meeting link and the module materials will be emailed to all registrants in due course.


Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus of the Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, and maintains an active consulting and coaching practice.  He also directs the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition (, which provides online training internationally in grief therapy.  Neimeyer has published 33 books, including New Techniques of Grief Therapy:  Bereavement and Beyond, and serves as Editor of the journal Death Studies.  The author of over 500 articles and book chapters and a frequent workshop presenter, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process.  Neimeyer served as President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) and Chair of the International Work Group for Death, Dying, & Bereavement.  In recognition of his scholarly contributions, he has been granted the Eminent Faculty Award by the University of Memphis, made a Fellow of the Clinical Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association, and given Lifetime Achievement Awards by both ADEC and the International Network on Personal Meaning.

Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD

Speaker Photo 36.jpg

USD$99 for 3-hour module

For other enquiries, simply email Carolyn.