Counseling Psychology


What has become of grief counseling? An evaluation of the empirical foundations of the new pessimism

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American Psychological Association


A pessimistic view of grief counseling has emerged over the last 7 years, exemplified by R. A. Neimeyer's (2000) oft-cited claim that "such interventions are typically ineffective, and perhaps even deleterious, at least for persons experiencing a normal bereavement" (p. 541). This negative characterization has little or no empirical grounding, however. The claim rests on 2 pieces of evidence. The 1st is an unorthodox analysis of deterioration effects in 10 outcome studies in B. V. Fortner's (1999) dissertation, usually attributed to Neimeyer (2000). Neither the analysis nor Fortner's findings have ever been published or subjected to peer review, until now. This review shows that there is no statistical or empirical basis for claims about deterioration effects in grief counseling. The 2nd piece of evidence involves what the authors believe to be ill-informed summaries of conventional meta-analytic findings. This misrepresentation of empirical findings has damaged the reputation of grief counseling in the field and in the popular media and offers lessons for both researchers and research consumers interested in the relationship between science and practice in psychology.