Grief Series: Grief Therapists

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
A good grief therapist uses specialized techniques that help people with abnormal and/or complicated and prolonged grief reactions

What to Look For in a Grief Therapist

Grief Counselor or Therapist?

Grief Therapist or Grief Counselor - for some people there is a big difference. Famed psychological clinician and research William J. Worden wrote an entire essay in 1991 on the difference. Basically he believes that grief counselors help people work through uncomplicated and more typical grief processes within a reasonable time frame. However, grief therapy uses specialized techniques that help people with abnormal and/or complicated and prolonged grief reactions. For the purposes of this discussion, we're going to use them more interchangeably.

How Grief Therapy Works

The semantic differences withstanding, both titles indicate that your counselor or therapist has specific training in helping clients process the loss of a loved one, as well as leading clients through emotions such as sadness, anger, stress, and a sense of despair. Grief is a unique and personal journey, and seeking support is a courageous step towards healing. As a licensed psychologist, I want to shed light on how this process works and offer insights into finding the right path to healing.

How does a Grief Therapist help someone deal with grief?

The most important aspect of selecting a grief counselor or a grief therapist (again, I'll use those terms interchangeably) is that he or she has requisite experience to work through your particular grief as a therapist or counselor first. A skilled therapist provides a safe space for expression, using evidence-based techniques to guide individuals through the grieving process. From active listening to tailored coping strategies, therapists play a crucial role in fostering emotional well-being.

What kind of therapy is better for grief?

Research suggests that approaches like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are effective. Interpersonal Therapy, Traumatic Grief Therapy and Complicated Grief Therapy are also used. These therapies focus on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, providing a holistic approach to healing. It is important to remember that there is no one or best therapeutic approach.

What is the antidote to grief?

While there's no magic cure, the antidote often lies in compassionate support, self-care, and the passage of time. A skilled therapist can guide you towards resilience and a renewed sense of purpose. Counselors at Bradley University put it best, "Grief can be present in a range of situations and can produce a wide variety of behaviors and emotions. For instance, while often typified by intense sadness, expressions of grief may also come in the form of guilt, rage, or confused relief."

What makes a good grief therapist?

Empathy, experience, and a deep understanding of the grieving process are key. A good grief therapist provides a non-judgmental space, helping clients navigate their unique journey at their own pace. The primary goal is not to erase the pain, but rather to support individuals in finding ways to integrate their loss into their lives, fostering adaptation and growth.

When should you seek out a grief counselor?

Consider seeking help if the pain of loss feels overwhelming, affecting your daily life and well-being. Grief counseling is beneficial at any stage of the grieving process. According to WebMD, grief symptoms can include:

  • Intense sadness and emotional pain
  • Feeling empty and hopeless
  • Yearning to be reunited with your loved one
  • Constantly thinking about the deceased person or how they died
  • Difficulty engaging in happy memories of the lost person
  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the loved one
  • A reduced sense of identity
  • Detachment and isolation from friends and family
  • Lack of desire to make plans or have interests

Grief is a journey, not a destination. If you or someone you know is navigating loss, my team and I are here to offer support.

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

Grief is typically a portion of all types of therapy.  There are so many types of grief and loss. Not being able to do certain things, not having the relationship you desire, and not having support from others are all examples of grief. However, losing a friend or loved one can be a more difficult grief to process.  I often talk with clients about the original five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) which were developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. These were modified and expanded to add two additional stages: shock and testing. These stages are not linear, and can be cycled through in different orders. In my experience, helping clients identify and understand these various stages of grief, and using the counseling technique which helps them to process their emotions while providing coping has been most effective. 

#GriefCounseling #GriefTherapyWorks #MentalHealthMatters #CopingWithLoss #GriefSupport #YouAreNotAlone

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.