Fielding Graduate University News

An Overture to Dementia’s Soulful Memories

Posted by Hilary Edwards on Wed, Jul 31, 2013

Forrest book cover resized 600Touch the Spirit - Connecting to the Inner World of Dementia

Fielding Graduate University alumna Deborah A. Forrest, PhD, (PSY '95) recently published a research-based book on dementia.

More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and many of us don’t know how to react, let alone help, when this disease strikes our loved ones.

In Touch the Spirit, Deborah Forrest, PhD, peels away the stereotypes and assumptions in order to explore and explain how we, the families, can offer and provide means of comfort, and, most importantly, human and mental contact with our loved ones afflicted with dementia.

Through entertaining and enlightening stories of hope and success, Forrest reminds us how the most simple acts, such as poetry, art, animals, and music, can open a channel of connection with those lost to time and reconnect with their souls. In addition, Touch the Spirit covers the research and progress being made toward dementia prevention, because an informed person is a prepared person. We must understand what medicines are effective, and how spirituality can play a major role in providing relief and comfort to all concerned.

Touch the Spirit is also about the caregivers, the families, and Forrest offers informative ways to combat the inevitable stress we suffer, as well as means to improve our health and enrich our spirits. We can’t care for those who need us if we aren’t physically and mentally capable of being there for them.

Touch the Spirit is much more than a professional overview of dementia; it is about restoring humanity and uplifting the bond that exists between human beings. It is about life, family, and most of all…love.

Forrest header

Forrest holds degrees in nursing from St. Mary’s Hospital Nursing School, Knoxville, TN (RN); Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA (BSN); and The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (MSN) and degrees in clinical psychology from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA (MA & PhD). She has worked as a peri-operative educator and manager in several academic medical centers in the Southeast; a nursing director in a Texas psychiatric hospital; and a biomedical researcher and clinical affairs consultant to several Fortune 100 corporations.

In 1990, shortly after her return to graduate school for her doctorate in clinical psychology, Forrest began an association with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, PhD. That association led to her dissertation research project with Kubler-Ross’s final grief workshops before her retirement. Immediately following the completion of her doctoral degree program, Forrest completed a one year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Kentucky’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center & Sander’s Brown Center on Aging where she continued to expand her knowledge of gerontology and the diseases of aging. She has published extensively in professional and technical journals in various fields of medicine and health, and has taught and lectured in her fields of specialization – aging, dementia and spirituality, bereavement and bone marrow cancer. Since 1987 she has been repeatedly listed among the Who’s Who in Professional & Executive Women.

Forrest became a best-selling author with the publication of her book Symphony of Spirits: Encounters with the Spiritual Dimensions of Alzheimer’s (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). In 2002 she was invited by the Johnson & Johnson/Rosalyn Carter Institute Caregiver’s Program of Experts Panel to speak on the topic of “Faith and Spirituality.” As an author and speaker, Forrest continues to conducts lectures and presentations on aging, dementia and spirituality. Each presentation is designed to entertain, inspire and replenish the audience.

Touch the Spirit was just released this month and is available for domestic and international sales in paperback on, as an e-book on, and can also be found her website


Tags: clinical psychology, fielding graduate university, aging