Chicago Counselor at The Center for Grief Recovery Chicago Counselor at The Center for Grief Recovery

And all subsided in the hush
that followed, in the calm
of great wings folding
and shadowy forms lying down.

I rose and left that room,
the house of my grief
and my bondage, my book
never again to be opened.

To see as once I saw,
steadied by the darkness
in which I walked
and would make my way.

John Haines

Home   < Grief Recovery Articles  < The Elements of Therapeutic Grief Work

The Elements of Therapeutic Grief Work

by David Fireman, LCSW

Relationship Building

In the past medical practitioners were accepted as authorities within a social system that expected certain people to give orders and others to obey them. Certain roles such as: doctor, lawyer, teacher, allowed those persons to give advice and to receive unquestioned obedience. Since this social structure has broken down, it becomes crucial to build a relationship that allows patients to accept professional judgments and to collaborate in their own recovery. Thus, relationships can no longer be based on social role, uncontested authority or even scientific validity. If we are to succeed most fully, then we must establish trust, warmth, and an empathic response to our clients.

Mind-Body Connection

The connection between mind and body has been only partially established. That is, we are aware of the effects that the body has on the mind. We are clear that we can influence the functioning of our thoughts and emotions through physical interventions such as surgery, and pharmaceuticals. However, we are often unaware that the mind can influence what goes on in the body. Grief may be caused by stressors, feeling states, emotional strain or intensity, and the way we perceive things or the way we think. It is essential to establish the mind-body connection by having the client actually experience it.

Stress Management

Physical illness creates emotional stress and then stress causes physical illness. This is a circular process in which symptom becomes cause and the circle becomes self-reinforcing. In order to break that downward spiral, we need to intervene with stress management techniques. Additionally, when people are under stress, they lose their openness to new ideas, their coping skills, their sense of self-esteem, and actually become less competent. So, if we want clients to have the discipline to exercise regularly, make lifestyle changes, come to appointments on time, then clients need to feel competent and open. Moderating stress levels is one of the single most important ways of re-establishing the sense of being a competent, powerful adult.

Conquering Fear and Doubt

Fear and doubt are two of the most negative elements in the human psyche. The end result of these two elements is freezing or paralysis. We cannot take a step either physically or mentally. Both the mind and body can be gripped with fear and doubt. Whatever we do to help people surmount their pain, we must deal with these negativities. We cannot expect clients to be hopeful, or to have faith in our work together, or to progress, when fear and doubt are not handled. We are aware of the placebo effect or of the increased speed of healing when optimism and hope are present. Thus, when clients believe that the treatment is effective, there is a much better probability that it will, in fact, be successful.

Changing Perspective

Grief is not just a physical phenomenon, it is also a result of how we feel about what happens to us. For example, the soldier who is seriously wounded may actually be joyful and feel little pain, because s/he knows s/he will be going home and be out of danger. However, the civilian accident victim may suffer the same or lesser wounds and be devastated because this was neither an expected nor a welcome outcome. There a good many changes of perspective that would help the pain victim.

Lifestyle Change

In order for the client to stay healthy or continue to get healthier, there must be lifestyle changes. Giving up smoking, street drugs, alcohol, or other harmful habits may be crucial. Eating more healthily, exercising regularly, becoming productive in a career or other major lifestyle changes may be important. Letting go of negative emotions, changing self-defeating behaviors, improving interpersonal relationships, and accepting professional help more regularly may be essential skills for keeping progress from washing out.

Therapy Working

The actual application of therapeutic grief work can only be effective when we have attended to all of the above issues. The most skilled technician in the world will not be listened to, if s/he does not:

- embed the treatment in the midst of an empathic relationship
- build on awareness of the mind’s power to influence the body
- work to conquer fear and doubt
- help shift perspectives
- moderate stress
- encourage sustainable lifestyle changes

Copyright, 2010
David Fireman, LCSW



The Center is expanding.

Center for Grief Recovery and Therapeutic Services has immediate openings for two full-time licensed psychologists. Click here for more information

The Center is expanding. Click here to for more about our newest clincial professional counselor, Elizabeth Cerven

New Groups

The Center is now taking names for new Healing Our Losses Group. See attached flyer and FAQ for detailed info. Contact Us by phone or email to find out more.

New Workshops
Center colleague Allan Schnarr, MDiv, PhD offering new CHANGE OF HEART . . . . Vulnerability and Self-transcendence workshop . . . [read more]

Center colleague Allan Schnarr, MDiv, PhD offering new "TRANSFORMING LOVE - Creativity as a way of new life" workshop . . . [read more]

News and Events
Thank You! Our 30th Anniversary celebration was a hit. To read more, click on this link.

Center Grief Recovery celebrates 30 Years with Open House Fundraiser. To learn more, click on this link.

We are excited to announce that Paul Martin, PsyD has become the Center's assistant director. To learn more about Paul's practice click on this link.

The Center Expands Again! Please join us in welcoming Megan Kelleher, LCSW who comes to us with wonderfully empathic presence, and a broad range of helping skills. You can learn more about her by visiting our Therapists section or clicking on this link.

Community Walk for Grief Support: Celebrating 25 Years of Transformation
The Center celebrated its 25th year anniversary with a fund raiser walk in Rogers Park, Chicago on June 4.
[read more]

New Articles

New interview on ideas for what to say and do to support the bereaved, by the Center's Meg Kelleher, LCSW. [read here]

Pain Bonds Us - I feel close to you when you let your pain show. A protective shield inside me slides away. [read more]

Private Practice: Dynamic Psychotherapy and Bereavement Counseling (CEU) [read more]

You Know Therapy Is Working When . . . - You feel increasingly uncomfortable with the status quo when it is causing harm. [read more]

Ideas About Mourning - For the griever the future feels shattered; everything hoped for is broken and gone/ lost like a broken mirror. [read more]

Myths and Realities of Mourning - Regrettably, our society maintains a host of unrealistic assumptions and inappropriate expectations when it comes to the work of grief and mourning. Here are some myths to consider: [read more]

The Difference Between Grief and Mourning - It is critical to know the difference between grief and mourning. Both processes are there to help the bereaved face the reality that their loved one is gone and then to slowly begin to accommodate to that fact. [read more]


©2003 - 2014 The Center for Grief Recovery and Therapeutic Services | 1263 W. Loyola | Chicago, IL. 60626
1-773-274-4600  |

home  |  about the center  |  about the institute  |  our therapists  |  newsroom  |  donations  |  contact us
therapeutic services  |  support resources  |  professional resources
grief recovery articles  |  human potential articles  |  privacy policy  |  site map

Non-Profit Web Design Copyright © 2011 by Website Designed by: