M. Katherine Shear, MD


Center Director


My job at the Center is to steer our team to successful projects that will improve the lives of people suffering from complicated grief. As Founder and Director of the Center I am involved in all aspects of our work. I oversee the website, supervise all of our staff, lead our training initiatives and spearhead our fund-raising efforts. You might think this is a full time job, but in fact I have one of those. I serve as the Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia School of Social Work so I am a Senior member of an academic faculty at a large university. If you are interested – that means research, teaching, writing, presenting and administrative responsibilities at the School. I have a lot of energy and I feel very lucky to be able to contribute in this way to the Center, the School of Social Work and Columbia University.

I began working with complicated grief in the mid 1990’s, when colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh asked me to help figure out how to treat people suffering in this way. To do so I reached out to grief counselors, studied the science of attachment, loss and grief, enlisted the help of friends and colleagues and supervised clinicians in a pilot project. The approach that grew out of this early work was influenced by my inherent optimism and faith in human creativity and resilience. CGT now has the strongest evidence-base of any grief treatment in the world and hundreds of therapists are now using it both nationally and internationally. This is enormously gratifying.

Also gratifying is the feedback from clinicians who are attending our Center workshops in growing numbers. They report that my enthusiasm for sharing what I have learned about bereavement is infectious. Highly satisfied workshop participants have come from around the world to learn our treatment method. In addition to teaching, I have now authored more than 400 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and have successfully completed 13 grants from the National Institute of Mental Health totaling more than $16 million, among them three separate randomized controlled clinical trials testing complicated grief treatment.

I stay sane by playing with 3 year olds and dogs, sharing ideas and stories with my psychologist daughter, reading novels, playing tennis, bike riding, hanging out with my wonderful husband who does a great job taking care of me and letting me take care of him, and of course with a little help from my friends.

Workwise, at the end of the day, I am a clinical researcher and my heart is in clinical practice. It is deeply gratifying that CGT has helped so many people rediscover enthusiasm for life while finding a way to accept and honor their loss.