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What is Complicated Grief?

April 6, 2017 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Approximately 2.5 million people die every year in the United States alone and, worldwide, the number of deaths reaches 60 million. Estimating an average of three very close friends and relatives means at least 7.5 million people are bereaved yearly in the United States and 177 million people are bereaved every year around the world. Mental health practitioners understand that the death of a loved one is a uniquely challenging life experience and is one of the most difficult a person can face.

Despite the difficulty of losing a loved one, over time most people find a way to come to terms with the loss, reshape their relationship with the person who died, and restore a sense of meaning and purpose in their own lives. However, for an important subgroup troubling thoughts and feelings, problematic behaviors or inadequate can derail this process and result in the development of complicated grief (CG). CG is associated with substantial distress and impairment, including a high risk for suicidal ideation and behavior.

CG can be reliably identified and the results of 3 large NIMH-funded randomized controlled trials support the efficacy of complicated grief treatment (CGT), a short-term, focused approach to fostering adaptation to loss. This presentation will provide a framework for understanding CG and its treatment from two crucial perspectives, that of a clinician and that of a client. The discussion will center on how to identify CG and the pros and cons of formal diagnosis, and will outline how CGT is used to address grief complications and revitalize the natural adaptation process to loss.

Learning Objectives

  1. Be able to answer the question “what is complicated grief?”
  2. Discuss how a client with complicated grief feels about formal diagnosis
  3. Explain the overall objectives of complicated grief treatment (CGT)
  4. Analyze the strategies and techniques for treatment of complicated grief


M. Katherine Shear, M.D., Center Director


April 6, 2017
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront
Portland, OR United States