Grief therapy is counseling provided to people who have experienced grief and loss. While people may think of this form of counseling as being specifically applicable to people who have experienced the death of a love one, grief therapy may also be used to support people going through major life transitions, such as retirement or loss of a job, as grief can accompany these major events. A number of people can provide grief therapy, including clergy, psychologists, counselors, and laypeople.
The experience of grief can be very intense. In addition to experiencing extreme emotions such as depression and mania, people in grief may also have physical symptoms. Supporting people through a period of grieving can help them work through the grief in productive and healthy ways, without marginalizing their experience. The goal of grief therapy is not to make someone “get over it,” but instead to show people ways in which they can process their grief and move forward.
Some therapists specialize in offering grief therapy, and they may belong to professional organizations of grief counselors. Grief therapy may also be offered by people who are trained to offer more general counseling services, ranging from nurses in critical care units to psychiatrists. People can attend private sessions in which counseling is tailored to their needs, or work with grief support groups administered by churches, hospitals, and private organizations.
In some cases, grief therapy may be part of a larger patient care plan. For example, someone who is experiencing extreme emotional symptoms as a result of grief may see a grief counselor with an approach with suits him or her, in addition to a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or mental health professional who can help the patient address the emotional issues associated with the grief. Likewise, support for physical symptoms associated with grief can be offered by a doctor who works on a team with a grief therapist to help the patient process.
Everyone grieves differently, which means that grief therapy approaches need to be quite varied in order to account for individual needs. One person may simply want someone to sit and listen, while another might prefer spiritual counseling to help him or her work through and accept loss. When grief therapy is recommended to someone, it may take several counselors to find a match. If a grieving person feels uncomfortable with a counselor, it will be difficult for him or her to process the grief and work through it. Therapists understand this, and they may provide referrals to people whom they think might be better served by someone else.