Descriptions of the syndrome of complicated grief first began in the 1990’s. Although CG bears some similarity to both depression and PTSD, researchers found standard mental health treatments were not effective. We took on the challenge of understanding and treating people with CG. Our approach included developing simple, valid assessment tools and a short-term targeted intervention strategy. We obtained funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to test our 16-week treatment. We also received funding from the New York State Office of Mental Health to develop a brief video and a manual for counselors to use after 9-11. We demonstrated that our CG-targeted approach was superior to an evidence-based treatment for depression. This work supported the conclusion that grief and depression are not the same and provided new hope for CG sufferers. We continued to conduct NIMH-funded research to optimize our ability to help people with complicated grief.
Our group has published more than 100 papers and book chapters on CG-related topics and we have formed ties with researchers across Columbia and elsewhere who are studying neuroendocrine functioning, memory and emotion regulation, and the psychological processes and brain mechanisms in CG. We have collaborated on studies of the occurrence of CG in the community and the risks associated with CG and its impact on families. We have worked in disaster-related loss (Hurricane Katrina, Japanese triple disaster), palliative care, suicide bereavement, and military bereavement. Dr. Shear has presented workshops in CGT to clinicians worldwide. The Center’s goal is to ensure the greatest possible impact of our work.