There is help for people with prolonged grief disorder.
Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) is a new diagnosis in the DSM 5-TR and it’s important for clinicians to know how to diagnose and treat it. People with PGD often feel hopeless and skeptical that anything other than bringing their loved one back can help them. Prolonged Grief Disorder Therapy (PGDT) can make a big difference in their life. PGDT (previously called complicated grief therapy: CGT) was the first proven efficacious treatment for this condition and remains the approach most extensively tested.
We conducted a series of clinical trials funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and found PGDT superior to interpersonal treatment for depression. In our research studies 70% of people, who had been suffering for years, and sometimes decades, were much improved after just 4 or 5 months. Our approach is different from standard grief therapy. However, it isn’t difficult to learn.
PGDT is informed by foundational research in psychological and social functioning relevant to loss and grief, including attachment relationships, self determination processes, emotion regulation processes, cognitive processes and cognitive neuroscience, relational self and social neuroscience as well as a number of other well-researched psychosocial processes. PGDT is short-term with clear goals and is well specified and simple to administer. We focus on promoting healing milestones and addressing stuck points in adapting to loss using active listening and personalized interventions. Thousands of therapists have used our manual and therapy materials, participated in our workshops and/or self-study program. We hope you will join them.
Prolonged Grief Disorder Therapy (PGDT): A brief overview
Note: this is the treatment we have previously called Complicated Grief Therapy (CGT)
A PGDT therapist guides people through seven “Healing Milestones” in 16 sessions. Doing this allows the therapist to facilitate adaptation to loss and to elicit and address “stuck points.” The milestones include understanding grief, managing emotions, seeing a promising future, strengthening relationships, narrating the story of the death, learning to live with reminders and connecting with memories of the person who died. We use a well-defined procedure and a planned sequence to introduce each of the seven themes. Sessions are structured in a manner similar to CBT, beginning with a review and agenda, moving to a loss-focus followed by a restoration-focus and ending with plans for the upcoming week.
A treatment manual and other therapy aids are available for purchase on this website. We teach courses and workshops and provide case consultations. Therapists sometimes try this approach with a client with whom they are already working. These therapists tell us they quickly become converts. They say they learn things about their client in just a few sessions that they had not previously known after extensive periods of working together. Their clients respond to PGDT with more hope and enthusiasm than they had ever expressed to the therapist. Participants in our treatment research studies also told us they found this therapy helped them after they had spent years in therapy without much response. The client in the video self-study on this website explains her view of this experience, if you would like to see an example.