Our approach to understanding and treating complicated
grief is to merge clinical and scientific knowledge
We began prolonged grief (previously known as complicated grief) treatment research in the 1990s when colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh found that grief symptoms did not respond to treatments for depression.
In 2000, we published a pilot study of a new Complicated Grief Therapy (CGT), now known as Prolonged Grief Disorder Therapy (PGDT) and received NIMH funding to test CGT (PGDT). Results published 2005 showed that CGT (PGDT) was nearly twice as effective as Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), a very good treatment for depression.
In 2008 we received an NIMH grant to study CGT (PGDT) in older adults. Results published in 2014 again showed that CGT (PGDT) was twice as effective as IPT for complicated grief.
A third NIMH-funded study tested the efficacy of antidepressant medication at 4 different clinical research sites. Results published in 2016 again showed CGT (PGDT) to be very effective while we did not show efficacy of antidepressant medication. However, when we used an antidepressant with CGT (PGDT), symptoms of depression improved compared to using a placebo.
CGT (PGDT) is the most extensively tested method available to help people with prolonged grief. A total of 641 people have participated in our treatment research studies. Overall in these studies 70% of those who received CGT (PGDT) were much improved. This rate of response is one of the highest in any treatment research study.
We have conducted assessment research to provide clinicians with clinically useful assessment tools that are valid and reliable. These include instruments to diagnose prolonged grief and to characterize typical beliefs, avoidance behaviors and work and social functioning. These instruments are available on this website.