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Course in Prolonged Grief Disorder Therapy (PGDT)

Prolonged grief affects 7 percent of people who have lost a significant other. The prevalence is much higher among parents who have lost a child, as well as when the cause of death is sudden and violent. There is insufficient knowledge about and capacity for practicing treatment tailored to prolonged grief conditions. For one, this is a problem for the many people bereaved by suicide.

NSSF offers PGDT training as part of the work to improve the forms of treatment available to the bereaved experiencing prolonged grief.

close-up, girl, forest

Prolonged Grief Disorder Therapy (PGDT), formerly Complicated Grief, was developed by Dr. Katherine Shear, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York. Dr. Shear is also the leader of the Center for Complicated Grief. In Norway, the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention (NSSF) has established a close collaboration with Dr. Shear and her colleagues, and have educated numerous PGD therapists over the years

What is Prolonged Grief Disorder?

It is normal to experience sudden grief after the loss of someone close, but prolonged grief is different. Prolonged grief is an intense and long-term type of grief that does not decrease with time, and that affects the bereaved’s thoughts and behavior in such a way that it significantly reduces his or her quality of life and level of functioning. Prolonged Grief Disorder is recognized as a diagnosis in ICD-11.

For someone experiencing prolonged grief disorder, aspects of the grief interfere with the natural healing process. These factors can be tied to:

  • the bereaved
  • the type of relationship the bereaved had to the deceased
  • the circumstances of the death
  • things happening after the death

People with Prolonged Grief Disorder have trouble facing the loss they have suffered as well as regaining a normal life with meaning.  

Recognizing Prolonged Grief Disorder

If a person has more than three of the following symptoms for more than six months after a person’s death, he or she may be suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder:

  • a strong feeling of longing after the deceased
  • an intense feeling of loneliness, even while in the company of others
  • a strong feeling of anger or bitterness related to the death
  • feeling that life is meaningless or empty without the deceased
  • thinking about the deceased so much that it interferes with actions or relationships
  • a strong sense of disbelief about the death or serious trouble accepting the death
  • feeling shocked, paralyzed, drowsy, or emotionally numb
  • difficulties trying to care about or trust others
  • feeling very emotionally or physically active when confronted with the loss
  • avoiding people, places, or things that may evoke a memory of the deceased
  • a strong urge to look at, touch, listen to or smell things to feel close to the deceased

Prolonged Grief Disorder Therpay

Prolonged Grief Disorder Therapy (PGDT) is based on attachment theory in order to understand grief as a natural process that develops normally unless hindered by so-called complicating factors. This process entails reconciling oneself with the irrevocable from the loss and its consequences, at the same time as life goals and plans are redefined. The treatment is typically delivered in 16 sessions over the course of 4 months. The treatment focuses on:

  • information about grief, Prolonged Grief Disorder and treatment
  • use of daily monitoring of grief intensity
  • involvement of a significant other
  • strengthening interpersonal functioning
  • working on personal goals and self-care
  • systematic exposure to the loss as well as places and activities that are avoided
  • working with memories

The treatment is successful when psychological impediments to the grief process are identified and cleared away so that normal healing can continue and symptoms gradually diminish. The treatment is developed for adults, but it can also be used for adolescents.

PGDT Course

NSSF offers annual 5-day trainings in PGDT. Teaching takes place in Oslo, and is mostly delivered in Norwegian. Materials, including the treatment manual, will be distributed in Norwegian.


Part I:

  • Prof. Lars Mehlum, NSSF, UiO
  • PGD therapist Trine Giving Kalstad, NSSF, UiO

Part II:

  • Prof. dr. Kathrine Shear, Columbia University, NY
  • Prof. Lars Mehlum, NSSF, UiO
  • PGD therapist Trine Giving Kalstad, NSSF, UiO

For more information, please contact

Tags: Complicated Grief Treatment, Grief, treatment, NSSF
Published Aug. 3, 2017 11:20 AM - Last modified Mar. 30, 2022 7:46 AM