The effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions for bereaved persons: a comprehensive quantitative review

Psychol Bull. 2008 Sep;134(5):648-661. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.134.5.648.


Previous quantitative reviews of research on psychotherapeutic interventions for bereaved persons have yielded divergent findings and have not included many of the available controlled outcome studies. This meta-analysis summarizes results from 61 controlled studies to offer a more comprehensive integration of this literature. This review examined (a) the absolute effectiveness of bereavement interventions immediately following intervention and at follow-up assessments, (b) several of the clinically and theoretically relevant moderators of outcome, and (c) change over time among recipients of the interventions and individuals in no-intervention control groups. Overall, analyses showed that interventions had a small effect at posttreatment but no statistically significant benefit at follow-up. However, interventions that exclusively targeted grievers displaying marked difficulties adapting to loss had outcomes that compare favorably with psychotherapies for other difficulties. Other evidence suggested that the discouraging results for studies failing to screen for indications of distress could be attributed to a tendency among controls to improve naturally over time. The findings of the review underscore the importance of attending to the targeted population in the practice and study of psychotherapeutic interventions for bereaved persons.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Bereavement*
  • Humans
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy / methods*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome