Specific grief therapy doubled recovery rates

Specific grief therapy doubled recovery rates

They suggest in their study*, published today in JAMA Psychiatry, that using the more effective treatment could be important in improving public health.

US researchers reported that complicated grief, whose debilitating symptoms include prolonged grief, frequent thoughts and memories of the deceased, and difficulty imagining a meaningful future, affects about one in 11 older bereaved women – and is associated with functional impairment as well as increased risk of suicide. Reports have suggested that its symptoms don’t respond well to interpersonal psychotherapy, a well-known treatment for depression.

So the researchers developed a targeted treatment for the condition that was based on an attachment therapy model, which focused on loss and restoration, to help people resolve grief complications and facilitate natural mourning. They set up a trial among 151 women living in New York, aged 66 years on average, who had been bereaved for a mean of 3.2 years.

Of these women, 74 were assigned to 16 weekly sessions of this specific therapy (CG), and the other 77 women to 16 weeks’ interpersonal therapy (IPT), in which therapists discussed bereavement effects on mood, encouraged realistic assessment of the deceased, talked about the death and worked to enhance relationships and activities in the present.

Women in both groups experienced improvement in their symptoms – but the response rate in the CG was 70.5%, more than double that in the IPT group (32%). Symptom reduction per week was also greater in the CG group. In addition, in the CG group only 35.2% of women remained at least moderately ill after treatment, compared with 64.1% of those in the IPT group.

The authors said: “Complicated grief is an under-recognised public health problem that likely affects millions of people … Given a growing elderly population, increased rates of bereavement with age, and the distress and impairment associated with CG, effective treatment should have important public health outcomes.”

* M. Katherine Shear, et al. Treatment of Complicated Grief in Elderly Persons. A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online September 24, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1242.

By Louise Prime,

On Medica, Thursday 25 September 2014

View this article