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How to Help Clients Experiencing Prolonged Grief Disorder With a Professional Counselling Diploma

As an aspiring professional counsellor, it’s important that you become familiar with the ways you can help grief-stricken clients, especially those suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD). While many people turn to their primary physicians as individuals they can trust with their symptoms of grief, registered professional counsellors provide a different and often more personalized level of care when it comes to mental health (Borins, 1995). Working as a professional counsellor, you’ll be able to provide your clients with the perspective, tools and resources to live happier and healthier lives. 

Whether you’re interested in working with a specific demographic, you enjoy group counselling, you want to help those grieving the loss of a loved one, or you want to start your own business, earning a Professional Counselling Diploma from Rhodes Wellness College will provide you with the necessary education and certification to do so. Continue reading to discover more about Prolonged Grief Disorder and the steps you can take to help clients suffering from it after earning your diploma.

Recognizing Prolonged Grief Disorder in Your Counsellor Therapist Career

PGD can happen when your adult client has experienced the death of someone close to them within the last six months. If you’re working with children and teens, then this timeframe is doubled to twelve months (Benisek, 2021). While symptoms of grief are normal in the short-term, PGD causes individuals to suffer from fixated thoughts on their lost loved one, longing for them at all hours of the day and making it incredibly hard for the individual to function in daily life (Benisek, 2021). 

After completing comprehensive registered professional counsellor training, you’ll be able to identify signs of PGD in your clients based on their thoughts, actions and emotions. For example, you may notice that your client has prolonged disbelief in their death, they feel as though a part of themselves has died, they avoid reminders that their loved one has died, they have emotional numbness, and they have difficulty moving on with their life, or other related signs (Benisek, 2021). Various actions may also reveal PGD in an individual, such as leaving their loved one’s belongings in the exact place they were when they died, having difficulty remembering positive memories of their loved ones, turning to substance abuse, or having suicidal thoughts (Benisek, 2021). Whether you specifically work with a grieving population as a counsellor or not, you’re likely to encounter someone dealing with the loss of a loved one, making these symptoms and habits important to understand and recognize.

Understanding symptoms and signs of PGD will help you treat clients after registered professional counsellor training.

Utilizing Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy as Treatment for PGD

For those who have intensified, prolonged feelings of grief, elements of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be an effective form of treatment (Appelbaum, 2022). Components of CBT are used for a form of treatment called complicated grief treatment and are combined with other approaches to help the individual adapt to the loss of their loved one (Appelbaum, 2022). It begins with focusing on accepting the reality of the loss and is followed by working toward the restoration of their life without their loved one (Szuhany, 2021). 

In this form of therapy, you can help your client create actionable and realistic goals that help foster a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in a world without their loved one (Szuhany, 2021). Using complementary techniques that you will learn throughout your professional counselling diploma will help you guide your clients through this hard time with life-changing advice. Assisting your clients in overcoming PGD can give them another chance to appreciate and enjoy their lives.

CBT techniques are helpful in overcoming and moving past Prolonged Grief Disorder.

Referring Clients to Bereavement Support Groups

Another effective approach to managing and overcoming PGD is the attendance of and participation in bereavement support groups (Appelbaum, 2022). Studies have found that a majority of those suffering from PGD don’t seek out mental health services, despite the effective treatment options available (Lichtenthal, 2011). This can leave individuals feeling more alone than ever.

As a counsellor, you can provide your clients with references for bereavement support groups. Whether these groups are attended virtually or in person, many individuals see success in managing their symptoms of PGD (Appelbaum, 2022). The social connection and deepened levels of understanding and support that individuals find in these structured groups help heal their feelings of loneliness and avoid the extended isolation that often occurs with PGD (Appelbaum, 2022). With a number of treatment options available and comprehensive training from RWC, you’ll be able to provide your future clients with the best care possible as a registered professional counsellor.

Are you interested in starting training for a counsellor therapist career?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College for more information!

Works Cited

Appelbaum, P. (2021). Prolonged Grief Disorder. American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved on August 23, 2022 from https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/prolonged-grief-disorder 

Benisek, A. (2021). What Is Prolonged Grief Disorder? Mental Health. Retrieved on August 23, 2022 from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/prolonged-grief-disorder 

Borins, M. (1995). Grief counseling. Canadian Family Physician. Retrieved on August 23, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2146191/?page=1 

Lichtenthal, W. (2021). Underutilization of Mental Health Services Among Bereaved Caregivers With Prolonged Grief Disorder. American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved on August 23, 2022 from https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/ps.62.10.pss6210_1225 

Szuhany, K. L. (2021). Prolonged Grief Disorder: Course, Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment. Focus – The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry. Retrieved on August 23, 2022 from https://focus.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.focus.20200052 

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