Choosing a Grief Therapist or Support Group

Support Groups

There are many kinds of g in a group with people who have been through the same kind of experience as you have can be very helpful. Others may be able to lend strategies and support, and help you to see that what you are experiencing is not weird or crazy, but a natural reaction to what you have experienced. Most importantly, you should feel uplifted and better after attending a support group. If you are feeling worse, feeling despair or uncomfortable, then the group is probably not for you, and you should seek another group or a counselor who can provide one-on-one help for you.

Coaching, Counseling and Therapy

On we have professionals who describe themselves as grief coaches, grief counselors or grief therapists. The important issue is that you find someone with whom you can relate and you feel is really helping you to work on the challenges you are having. If you are really struggling or suffering, then you will probably want to explore working with a counselor or therapist. While some try to make sharp distinctions among these three terms, they are all approaches along a continuum, with many overlaps. People who are therapists or counselors tend to have more educational qualifications than coaches. Counselors and therapist may do coaching, but coaches probably won't be (or shouldn't be) doing "therapy". One way to think about counseling and therapy is that they often work on exploring, if appropriate, the "why" behind what you are feeling or doing to help get at the core causes. Coaching tends to be more focused on the here and now, helping you to have and implement a plan for moving forward. The ICF (International Coach Federation) defines coaching as "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential." The British Association of Counseling and Psychotherapy says that "counseling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies. They are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change or enhance their wellbeing".


Making a Choice

Many people who are grieving find support groups helpful, if they are facilitated by an experienced and skillful facilitator. Coaches can be very helpful for you to assess you current situation and get a plan for moving forward. But if you are experiencing intense grief, or your grief is affecting your functioning over quite a long time, then you should probably seek a counselor or therapist. Before you choose, you might want to ask the following questions:

1. How do you help people who are grieving?

2. What kinds of symptoms are you most effective in dealing with?

3. What kind of people should not come to you for help?

4. What is your approach?

5. How would I know that your service is helping me?

6. What is your availability and cost?

7. What are your qualifications and training in the area of grief and bereavement?

Continue to assess your needs

Once you have started, you may want to ask yourself the following questions from time to time. If the answers are negative, you may want to explore other options.

1. Is this helping me?

2. Am I starting to feel better?

3. Am I gaining a better understanding of myself and my situation?

4. What am I learning?

5. Do I feel safe and heard? Am I able to express my feelings with this person or this group?