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Looking for a Therapist after Bereavement?

Although I had mixed results from speaking to therapists after Thom died, I would still recommend counselling as part of your recovery package.

So here’s my five best pieces of advice for finding the help you need…

1. Don’t dismiss what you’re offered

If your loved one died in a hospice, it is likely that you’ll be offered some counselling. Your doctor could easily suggest something and friends might give the name of a good therapist. If they approach you on a good day, it’s easy to think: ‘I don’t need that!’ If you’ve just finished crying your eyes out, you’ll probably be defensive and worry: ‘How is talking going to change anything?’

Put your first reaction to one side and ask questions:

  • How many sessions are you offering?
  • Is it group or individual work?
  • What makes you recommend this therapist?

Even if you’re still doubtful, take the details and decide later. I would hope that you’d go along for at least one session (see point four) and because it might help with the next thing to consider.

2. Think about what you really need

Grief has the knack of finding the cracks in your life and turning them into chasms. So although, what therapists call the ‘presenting’ problem (what brought you to their door) is bereavement, the work might be something different altogether. For example, I find one of the triggers for I Love You But I’m Not in Love with You (my main work with couples and the title of my best-selling book) is the death of a parent.

Watching your mother or father die is a sharp reminder that you’re not immortal and if that’s the case, being great co-parents or feeling just flatmates might no longer be enough. So think about how grief has affected you? Do you want careers advice or coaching—because you’re stuck in the wrong job? Does your marriage need work? Should you revisit your childhood and something painful that happened there? Don’t worry if you’re not certain, perhaps taking up any existing offers for counselling will help you consider what you truly need.

3. Look for a specialist

Whether it is grief counselling or something else, I always recommend seeing someone who has a lot of experience in your chosen field. If you see a leaflet where someone says their work covers twenty topics—where bereavement or your chosen area is just one of them—I would say they are either a generalist or just starting out and have yet to find their niche.

4. Interview several therapists

The purpose of the initial session is two fold, for you to decide if you want to work with this therapist and for he or she to consider if they’re the right person to help you. So ask the therapists about their experience in your field, what will be their approach and most importantly consider if you feel comfortable with them.

If they get defensive when you ask questions, it is probably not a good sign. The relationship that the two of you make is the most important part of the healing process. So if you’re not sure, see someone else. You can always come back to your first choice.

5. Seeing me

If my book has really spoken to you or your bereavement has thrown up relationship problems, you might be considering seeing me (or reading some of my self-help books). There are full details of both my counselling services and my other titles on I am afraid demand is high so if I can’t see you, please consider one of my team who generally have more availability.

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