Dr. M. Katherine Shear, who holds the dual appointment of the Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry in Social Work and Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, is an expert on the diagnosis and treatment of complicated grief—defined as intense grief after the death of a loved one that lasts longer than expected and leads to functional impairment.

Dr. Shear has successfully developed a 16-session treatment for the condition, which, clinical trials show, performs significantly better than supportive psychotherapy.

Yet in spreading the word about the diagnosis and treatment of this form of grief, which affects about 2–3 percent of the population (7 percent among bereaved people), Dr. Shear faces the challenge that the treatment of grief, let alone complicated grief, has not been a priority for the mainstream medical community.

She is working to change that situation, however, having just now published an article in the January 8, 2015, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Publication of this clinical review in a major medical journal signals recognition by journal editors of the importance of the diagnosis and treatment of complicated grief among primary care physicians,” Dr. Shear says.

Her paper on complicated grief, which appears in the journal’s Clinical Practice section, summarizes the practical, evidence-based approach she has developed as a treatment for the condition.

The article also includes supplementary materials to assist clinicians in recognizing the problem.

“I believe recognition of this condition is increasing within the medical community,” Dr. Shear, who herself has trained as a medical doctor, says. “This is very important because a primary care doctor is often the first person from whom someone with CG will seek help.”

Kathy Shear in NEMJ

Interested in Learning More?

Dr. Shear will hold an Advanced Complicated Grief Workshop on February 6–7. Go to more information.

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