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An open trial of meaning-centered grief therapy: Rationale and preliminary evaluation

Journal title
Palliative & supportive care
Publication year
Lichtenthal, W. G.; Catarozoli, C.; Masterson, M.; Slivjak, E.; Schofield, E.; Roberts, K. E.; Neimeyer, R. A.; Wiener, L.; Prigerson, H. G.; Kissane, D. W.; Li, Y.; Breitbart, W.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the preliminary feasibility, acceptability, and effects of Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy (MCGT) for parents who lost a child to cancer. METHOD: Parents who lost a child to cancer and who were between six months and six years after loss and reporting elevated levels of prolonged grief were enrolled in open trials of MCGT, a manualized, one-on-one cognitive-behavioral-existential intervention that used psychoeducation, experiential exercises, and structured discussion to explore themes related to meaning, identity, purpose, and legacy. Parents completed 16 weekly sessions, 60-90 minutes in length, either in person or through videoconferencing. Parents were administered measures of prolonged grief disorder symptoms, meaning in life, and other assessments of psychological adjustment preintervention, mid-intervention, postintervention, and at three months postintervention. Descriptive data from both the in-person and videoconferencing open trial were pooled.ResultEight of 11 (72%) enrolled parents started the MCGT intervention, and six of eight (75%) participants completed all 16 sessions. Participants provided positive feedback about MCGT. Results showed postintervention longitudinal improvements in prolonged grief (d = 1.70), sense of meaning (d = 2.11), depression (d = 0.84), hopelessness (d = 1.01), continuing bonds with their child (d = 1.26), posttraumatic growth (ds = 0.29-1.33), positive affect (d = 0.99), and various health-related quality of life domains (d = 0.46-0.71). Most treatment gains were either maintained or increased at the three-month follow-up assessment.Significance of resultsOverall, preliminary data suggest that this 16-session, manualized cognitive-behavioral-existential intervention is feasible, acceptable, and associated with transdiagnostic improvements in psychological functioning among parents who have lost a child to cancer. Future research should examine MCGT with a larger sample in a randomized controlled trial.

Research abstracts