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Recent trends in the treatment of prolonged grief

Mancini, Anthony D.a; Griffin, Paula; Bonanno, George A.b

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: January 2012 - Volume 25 - Issue 1 - p 46–51
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32834de48a
PERSONALITY DISORDERS AND NEUROSIS: Edited by Charles B. Pull and Aleksandar Janca

Purpose of review Treatment for prolonged grief has been controversial. However, recent studies have clarified several key issues, offering important guidance to clinicians. This review summarizes the most recent evidence on the efficacy of grief treatments, moderators of treatment response, and new treatment approaches.

Recent findings Recent research findings highlight that grief therapy is efficacious when targeted to adult and child grievers with persistent and elevated levels of distress. However, when grief therapy is applied as a universal intervention, it has minimal to no benefits, either for adults or for children. Earlier intervention for children is associated with greater efficacy. In recent studies, therapies employing cognitive–behavioral techniques, such as cognitive restructuring and exposure, have shown particularly robust effects in ameliorating grief symptoms. Other intervention approaches, including pharmacotherapy, internet-based, family-based, and preventive, have shown initial promise, but insufficient data exist to validate their efficacy to date.

Summary Prolonged grief, a pattern of persistent and elevated distress following a loss, is increasingly recognized as an independent form of psychopathology that is responsive to treatment. Therapies that employ cognitive–behavioral techniques are efficacious in ameliorating the symptoms of prolonged grief and should be more widely used. However, grief therapy should not be deployed as a blanket intervention for all grievers. Antidepressant medication may serve a useful adjunctive role in grief therapy completion and in reducing bereavement-related depression.

aPace University, Pleasantville

bColumbia University, New York, New York, USA

Correspondence to Anthony D. Mancini, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Pace University, Marks Hall, Room 33, 861 Bedford Road, Pleasantville, NY 10570, USA.Tel: +1 914 773 3791; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.