Aging, Illness, and Loss: Being a Fully Human Therapist

March 24, 2024 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
For more information
please contact
Aging, Illness, and Loss: Being a Fully Human Therapist @ Zoom

Presenter: James Battaglia


This presentation’s focus is on enhancing one’s own experiences of aging, illness, and loss and to regard these experiences as an essential part of being a fully human and authentic therapist. The assumption is that by confronting these issues in our own lives, we can be more present with our patients as they confront these issues in their own. This sensitivity is not without its challenges. A therapist may desire, or may not have a choice, to disclose one’s own illness with patients – a choice that may be fraught and lead to unexpected consequences in the treatment. This presentation provides a place of safety in which participants may choose to share their own experiences and the expectation that all will be received with compassion, respect, and confidentiality. Aging, illness, and loss are present throughout the lifespan, so all are welcome irrespective of age or health condition.

During this presentation, I will share my experience with aging, illness, and loss especially in the context of my own recent history. During the discussion, the three pillars of Gestalt therapy will be addressed – phenomenology, field theory, and dialogue. During the breakout groups, participants will be asked to discuss their own experiences with aging, illness, and loss and how they may (or may not) impact the therapeutic work. One major goal of the presentation is to enhance awareness and acceptance of our own experiences – and those of colleagues – as therapists so we can be in a better position to recognize them and address them with our patients.


James (Jim) Battaglia, PhD, is a school psychologist by training, now licensed in NY and NJ, who was the teaching assistant to Iris Fodor, PhD, at NYU’s School Psychology program in the mid-1980s. After some 30 years of doing psychoanalytic-oriented psychotherapy with children and adults, he wandered into the Gestalt therapy world at Iris’s encouragement by attending a GATLA European Residential in Buffalo, NY, in 2009. He studied at GATLA for four years before turning to the Pacific Gestalt Institute (PGI), where he attends annual residential training – now as a more senior trainee and party organizer. Jim also has been a noncontinuous member of NYIGT since 2013 and has had leadership positions in AAGT.

His medical history includes HIV, cardiac disease (including a heart attack in 2010 while in LA), COVID, and prostate cancer – diagnosed in 2021, for which he was treated with surgery and 37 radiation sessions in 2022. Two significant losses include his “big brother,” Bud Feder, in 2018, and his “big sister,” Lynn Smith, in 2023 the day after his 62nd birthday. Lynn was his high school guidance counselor, who became his friend, and both were diagnosed with cancer around the same time.

Jim has found he cannot ignore his aging, illness, and loss because he is heavily engaged with treating practitioners, his friends talk of their own experiences, and his patients invariably bring up their own during therapy sessions. When it becomes too much, Jim turns to his husband, Jonathan, who, thankfully, is younger and healthier but who, not unexpectedly, has his own losses that are now part of their shared experience. Jim is an advocate of early PSA testing (starting at age 40), and he will be offering in-person and online therapy groups for gay men diagnosed with prostate cancer.