Efficacy of an Internet-based cognitive-behavioural grief therapy for people bereaved by suicide: a randomized controlled trial

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Julia Treml, Michaela Nagl, Katja Linde, Christine Kündiger, Carolin Peterhänsel & Anette Kersting

https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2021.1926650

Abstract

Background: The loss of a loved one due to suicide can be a traumatic event associated with prolonged grief and psychological distress.

Objective: This study examined the efficacy of an Internet-based cognitive-behavioural grief therapy (ICBGT) specifically for people bereaved by suicide.

Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, 58 participants with prolonged grief disorder (PGD) symptoms who had lost a close person to suicide were randomly allocated either to the intervention group (IG) or waitlist-control group (WCG). The 5-week intervention comprised ten writing assignments in three phases: self-confrontation, cognitive restructuring, and social sharing. Symptoms of PGD, common grief reactions after suicide, depression, and general psychopathology were assessed at pre-, post-test and follow-up.

Results: Between-group effect sizes were large for the improvement of PGD symptoms in treatment completers (dppc2 = 1.03) and the intent-to-treat analysis (dppc2 = 0.97). Common grief reactions after suicide and depressive symptoms also decreased in the IG compared to the WCG (moderate to large effects). The results are stable over time. Only for general psychopathology, there was no significant time by group interaction effect found.

Conclusions: The ICBGT represents an effective treatment approach for people suffering from PGD symptoms after bereavement by suicide. Considering the effect sizes, the small treatment dose, duration, and the stability of the results, the ICBGT constitutes an appropriate alternative to face-to-face grief interventions.

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