Applying an Empty-Chair Monologue Paradigm to Examine Unresolved Grief

Nigel Field, Mardi Horowitz
Gestalt psychotherapyResearchCase seriesEnglish
Journal Article - Paid access


In this study the Gestalt empty-chair technique was applied in a research context to assess unresolved grief and its relation to later adjustment. Bereaved individuals who experienced the death of a spouse on average 6 months ago participated in an empty-chair monologue task in which they were instructed to speak to their deceased spouse, imagining that they had one last opportunity to do so. They completed a questionnaire at the end of their monologue speech assessing their affective experience during the monologue. It contained items associated with unresolved grief (e.g., anger, guilt, helplessness, nonacceptance). Near the time of the monologue session, bereaved participants also completed the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) (Beck and Steer 1987) and the Impact of Event Scale (IES) (Horowitz, Wilner, and Alvarez 1979). At 14 months postloss, bereaved participants again were administered the BDI and IES. As hypothesized, the extent of unresolved grief as assessed by the monologue questionnaire at 6 months postloss was predictive of 14-month postloss symptoms, even when statistically controlling for 6-month postloss symptoms in hierarchical regression analyses.

APA citation

Field, N., & Horowitz, M. (1998). Applying an Empty-Chair Monologue Paradigm to Examine Unresolved Grief. Psychiatry, 61(4), 279-287.