Evidence-based treatment is available
Complicated grief treatment (CGT) has been rigorously tested in three large studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The treatment is administered in 16 weekly sessions using techniques derived from interpersonal therapy, motivational interviewing, positive psychology and cognitive-behavioral therapy. If you are apprehensive about treatment that can last a long time you may be happy to hear that this treatment is short-term.
You probably know that grief is never completed but it usually does subside in intensity as you accept the reality, learn what the loss means to you and to your relationship with the deceased person and understand there are ways to have joy and satisfaction in your life again. CGT helps you to make these important adaptations. The therapist makes the assumption that grief is a natural response to loss and is the form love takes when someone we love dies.
CGT builds on the natural capacity to adapt to loss
Based on this assumption we work to resolve the complications and facilitate the natural adaptive process. We do this by focusing on grief and loss in each session including the first one, by encouraging people to revisit the period of their loved one’s death and by guiding them to think about their future in a more hopeful way. We help people reconnect to personal strengths, and resources, rediscover their own values and interests and rebuild relationships with others. We explore access to continuing bonds to the deceased loved one.
CGT therapists are like Sherpa guides for grief. They know the terrain of loss and how to explain acute, integrated and complicated grief. They are able to see obstacles to adaptation, to design pathways for moving forward and to offer some new tools and resources. CGT therapists are good listeners and supportive companions. They respect and honor each individual’s unique grief process and contribute to that process only when necessary.
Some CGT responders have been suffering a long time
Many had tried other therapy without much success. It is remarkable that CGT helped such a challenging group in less than 6 months. We think its success is based on understanding natural human resilience and nurturing it through dual goals:
- Promoting access to natural adaptive processes by recognizing and addressing grief complications that are obstacles to adaptation
- Fostering resilience through supporting adaptive processes and their natural facilitators
We accomplish these goals using seven core modules administered in structured sessions and structured treatment phases. Outcome measures document the efficacy of this approach.
We can help therapists learn to recognize and treat CG
Our work at the Center for Complicated Grief has focused on developing and testing simple methods for recognition and treatment. CGT is the most rigorously tested but others also have good ideas about how to help people suffering from CG. We want you to know that help is available. We have contact information for growing numbers of knowledgeable therapists.
Training is available for licensed professionals who want to learn how to do this treatment. You can purchase the manual we used in our NIMH-funded studies along with the forms, handouts and rating scales we developed to accompany the treatment. Like many people in our culture, therapists often find death and loss to be uncomfortable topics. Our training increases clinician confidence and comfort level in dealing with these difficult issues.