Ambiguous Loss Treatment and Interventions for Family Therapists

This webinar is available for free to NCFR members and to Certified Family Life Educators (CFLEs). Log in, or become an NCFR member or a CFLE, to access it.
January 18, 2017
Free for NCFR members & CFLEs / $89 for nonmembers

Pauline Boss, Ph.D.

This webinar, presented by family therapist and NCFR Fellow Pauline Boss, Ph.D., focuses on family therapy and interventions for professionals who work with families where someone is missing physically, psychologically, or both.

The theoretical lens of ambiguous loss guides the discussion (Boss, 2006), which presumes that participants are familiar with ambiguous loss theory (Boss, 1999; Boss, 2007; also, see for more references).

Unlike the 2015 webinar Dr. Boss presented for NCFR, this webinar focuses on the therapeutic application of the ambiguous loss lens with actual cases of families experiencing a missing loved one. For this reason, there will be only a short review of the theory. Most of the webinar will be spent on the presentation of two case studies presented by two family therapists, after which Dr. Boss will provide consultation.

Family therapists, social workers, psychologists, nurses, clergy, and educators will find this webinar useful.

Approved for 1.5 CFLE contact hours of continuing education credit.


  1. To be able to apply the ambiguous loss theory for actual professional work with families of the missing.
  2. To understand the systemic approach for indivdual, couple, family, or community interventions.
  3. To be able to use the dialectial tool of "both-and" thinking.
  4. To understand the six guidelines and be able to apply them to the cases presented or one of your own.
  5. To reflect on the "person of the therapist" or "the person of the professional" and understand the importance of doing this for professional effectiveness.

About the Presenter

Pauline Boss, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota and a fellow in the American Psychological Association, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, and the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). She is a former president of the NCFR and, since 1974, a family therapist in private practice.

With groundbreaking work as a scientist-practitioner, Dr. Boss is the principal theorist in the study of ambiguous loss, a term she coined in the 1970s. Since then, she has researched various types of ambiguous loss, summarizing her work in the widely acclaimed book, Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Harvard University Press, 1999). In addition, Loss, Trauma, and Resilience (Norton, 2006), presents six therapeutic guidelines for treatment when loss is complicated by ambiguity. These guidelines are based on her years of work with families of the physically missing during the Vietnam War, after 9/11, in Kosovo, Fukushima, Mexico City, as well as in clinical work with individuals and families with loved ones missing psychologically—from Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, as well as from traumatic brain injury. In 2011, her book for families, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia (Jossey-Bass, 2011), outlines strategies for managing the ongoing stress and grief while caring for someone who has dementia and offers hope for dealing with the ambiguous loss of dementia — as well as for any illness that creates memory loss and cognitive issues. All of her books have been translated into numerous foreign languages. For more information, see her website.


Blume, L.B. (Ed.). (2016). Ambiguous Loss Theory [Special Issue]. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(3).

Boss, P. (1999). Ambiguous loss: Learning to live with unresolved grief. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Boss, P. (2007). Ambiguous loss theory: Challenges for scholars and practitioners [Special issue.] Family Relations, 56(2), 105-111.

On-Demand Webinar Recording and Classroom Use

Even if you can't watch this webinar live, your registration will still grant you access to watch the recording at your convenience. This webinar is now free for NCFR members and Certified Family Life Educators (CFLEs), and $89 for nonmembers.

License for classroom use by one professor is available for $129 for NCFR members, $199 for nonmembers.

License for departmental use (multiple professors) is available for $179 NCFR member / $319 nonmember.

Departmental license for CFLE-approved programs is $149.

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