“Mr. J” is a 55-year-old man with schizoaffective disorder and multiple psychiatric hospitalizations who was admitted for worsening paranoia and agitation. Despite stabilization with medications, he continued to require hospitalization because of his poor self-care, and he was referred to the state hospital.
While awaiting transfer, Mr. J worried that he would never spend meaningful time with his adult children, and he agreed to undergo dignity therapy to tell his life story to his children. He was too paranoid to participate in a recorded interview, but he agreed to write his story following the prompts in the dignity psychotherapy protocol (1), which contains questions about life history, dreams, and accomplishments. He wrote his own answers in a simple, grammatically incorrect style, but one of the authors (J.D.A.) typed up his words, edited them, and reviewed them with him. Mr. J focused primarily on the births of his children and the course of his illness, and he concluded by expressing his love toward his children. He distributed 10 copies of his story to family and friends. He reported that dignity therapy had “restored hope” and enabled him to communicate better with his children, who stated that they could now better understand their father.