Complicated grief: Knowledge, attitudes, skills and training of mental health professionals: A systematic review

Patient Educ Couns. 2017 Aug;100(8):1447-1458. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2017.03.010. Epub 2017 Mar 6.


Objective: A systematic review and qualitative synthesis was undertaken to deduce the knowledge, attitudes, skills and training of mental health professionals regarding complicated grief (CG).

Methods: PsychInfo, Embase, Medline, CINAHL, PBSC, Web of Science and ERIC databases were used to identify relevant literature. Searches were executed from inception to September 2014.

Results: The electronic search yielded 305 results. Forty-one papers were selected for full text review, 20 were included for analysis. 6 examined primary data, the remaining 14 being reviews, opinion or guideline pieces.

Conclusions: Despite the lack of consensus on terminology, criteria and diagnosis, it appears that there is more than sufficient agreement within the CG research community regarding the knowledge and skills required to assist someone presenting with CG. A palpable fear of medicalising grief exists, but this would seem to be based on a conflation of normal grief and CG. This review highlights the mainly unidirectional nature of current research, the voice of the practitioner being largely unheard. A need for and an interest in training in CG was expressed.

Practice implications: There is an urgent need to translate research findings into clinical practice. Training must take account of attitudinal barriers to implementation, balancing evidence and stories.

Keywords: Attitudes; Complicated grief; Knowledge; Mental health professionals; Skills; Systematic review; Training.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Grief*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Psychiatry / education*
  • Psychology / education*