We have reached the end of a week of grief psychology posts, featuring Sue Morris’ “The psychology of grief — applying cognitive and behaviour therapy principles.” The article closes with a brief explanation of how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy itself functions in treating grief in a psycho-therapeutic setting:
CBT for grief
The goal of CBT is to help the bereaved reconcile the death of their loved one, which involves giving them permission to grieve whilst also guiding and supporting them as they build a new life for themselves. Most bereaved individuals who present for help need to:
- Be able to tell their story over and over
- Express their thoughts and feelings repeatedly
- Attempt to make sense of what has happened
- Build a new life for themselves without the deceased.
Many of the CBT strategies that are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression, such as graded exposure to avoided or feared situations, increasing pleasant events and challenging unhelpful thoughts, can be modified for working with bereaved people (Kavanagh, 1990). Strategies which focus on increasing the sense of control and wellbeing can help facilitate adjustment (see boxed information).
CBT is an effective model for working with bereaved people because it provides a framework to understand their experience, identify barriers that they may be facing, and to develop strategies to increase their sense of control. It can easily be modified for short or long-term therapy and also has great potential for group work.
CBT is the one kind of talk therapy for which there exists a convincing body of evidence of improved outcomes. In other words, there is actual evidence that it helps many people.
Have you seen a therapist regarding grief? What was it like? Did it help you?