THURSDAY, Sept. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- For people mired in grief after a loved one's death, a specially designed therapy may work better than a standard treatment for depression, according to a study published online Sept. 24 in JAMA Psychiatry.
M. Katherine Shear, M.D., from the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City, and colleagues note that about 9 percent of bereaved older women will suffer from complicated grief -- an intense yearning and longing for the person who died that doesn't lessen over time. Sometimes the grief resolves on its own, but if not treated, it can lead to serious health problems.
More than 150 older adults suffering from complicated grief were assigned to treatment targeted to the condition or to interpersonal psychotherapy (proven efficacious treatment for depression). The researchers found that symptoms improved in 70 percent of those getting the targeted treatment compared to about one-third receiving interpersonal psychotherapy. The patients in the study were mostly women, with an average age of 66. The median time since the loss of the loved one was 3.2 years. After 16 weekly treatment sessions, severity of the condition remained among 35 percent of those who received complicated grief therapy, while about 64 percent of those treated with interpersonal psychotherapy remained moderately ill.
"The goal of the therapy is to get grief back on track," Shear told HealthDay. "We are not trying to achieve a remission of grief. We are trying to free grief to find its rightful place in our lives."