Grief Support - Do You Need Counseling,
Therapy, Or a Support Group?
By Harriet Hodgson
Ever since four loved ones died in 2007 my friends have
supported me. Their comments have been helpful. "You
look better," a friend said. "Your sense of humor is
back," another commented. I have benefited from my
friends' feedback and caring.
But I have also received advice from people I barely
know and strangers. One common piece of advice, "Stay
busy," not the healthiest approach to grief
reconciliation. These people have my well-being at
heart, but they do not know me, and are not counselors.
I decided to research grief support on my own.
Many certified grief counselors base their treatment on
the stages of grief defined by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Others use different approaches. "There are constantly
changing theories regarding grief an loss," notes "Grief
Counseling and Therapy," an article on the Death
Reference website. The article cites a book by William
J. Worden, PhD, "Grief Counseling and Therapy." A grief
clinician and researcher, Worden says there is a
difference between counseling and therapy.
Counseling is appropriate for those who have normal,
uncomplicated grief, according to Worden, whereas
therapy is appropriate for those who have complicated or
prolonged grief, behavioral problems, or an exaggerated
Dr. Alan Wolfelt writes about grief support in a "Grief
Digest" article, "How to Know if You Need Professional
Help." Good grief can turn bad, Wolfelt points out, and
once it "strays off course, the work of mourning can go
on and on without the grieving person ever reaching
Counseling is available from hospices, medical doctors,
referral centers, and hospitals. Before you sign up,
however, you need to do your homework. Ask about the
person's credentials, specialized, training, experience,
and counseling approach, Wolfelt advises. The cost of
ongoing counseling can add up quickly, so I would also
ask about fees.
The Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC)
and American Academy of Grief Counseling (AAGC) may also
help you find the support you need. According to the
ADEC website, most members are counselors and death
educators, though it includes grief writers like me.
While ADEC does not verify the credentials, background,
or qualifications of its members, it offers courses for
those who wish to become Certified Thanotologists -- a
professional who specializes in grief education, dying,
death, and bereavement.
The American Academy of Grief Counseling is comprised of
doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, funeral
directors, clergy and other professionals. Its
two-tiered program begins with a minimum of 100 hours of
lecture and study in the field, and continues with
Fellowship status. "Once Certified, members must commit
to adherence to the Code of Ethics for Certified Grief
Counselors and adhere to their specific profession's
Standards of Practice."
Instead of counseling, you may choose the simple route
and join a support group. For more information about
these groups contact your local hospital(s), Department
of social Services, and association of churches. Though
support groups are free, you should still ask about the
qualifications of the group leader and rules of
participation. Whether it is a support group, therapy,
or counseling, help is available. You are the only one
who can decide which is best for you.