Columbia UniversityÂ’s M. Katherine Shear, M.D., has been leading the way in untangling when the normal grieving process goes awry and how to restore the balance with psychotherapy
"For a long time, the psychiatric community has had a mixed understanding of grief. The concept of grief as an important part of dealing with loss was well recognized, and a trained professional could easily identify someone going through the grieving process. But, as M. Katherine Shear, M.D., the Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, pointed out, Â“What wasnÂ’t covered during my trainingÂ—and something that I think is still lackingÂ—was a discussion of what grief itself actually entailed.Â”Â“What sort of forms does [grief] take? How long do we expect it to last? And importantly, is there a point at which grief becomes problematic?Â” Shear continued.
Such questions were daunting, but ones that many medical professionals at the time did not focus on because they ascribed to the same mantra found among the general public: everyone grieves in his or her own way.
Shear, however, was determined to come up with answers to her questions about grief. For the past two decades, she has been leading efforts to delineate the line between healthy and unhealthy grieving and develop a strategy to treat Â“complicated griefÂ” (CG).
The efforts of Shear and her colleagues are beginning to pay off; complicated grief is now recognized in DSM-5 as a disorder in need of further study (tentatively named persistent complex bereavement disorder), and it is set to be described in the upcoming 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (as prolonged grief disorder). In addition, Shear developed a successful behavioral interventionÂ—complicated grief therapy, or CGT."