What is Grief Counseling?

When we lose someone or something we love, it’s rarely easy. At some point, though, it’s important to deal with the loss so that we can continue living our lives. For many, this will take time, patience, and support, but there are times when getting over the loss of a loved one takes more support than those around us can give us. Sometimes, we may need professional help.

If left untreated, grief can lead to a host of mental health concerns like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These factors make it even more important to get help if you’re struggling with grief. If you’ve experienced a major loss, grief counseling may be an option for you. Let’s explore grief counseling and review how can it help you.

What is Grief Counseling?

Grief counseling is a specially designed therapeutic program that aims to help people come to terms with their sadness and sorrow from loss. It can help with any cause of grief, like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, a divorce, the development of a severe illness or disability, or a traumatic experience. While grief counseling may help you with each of these causes of grief, it often deals with the death of a loved one and is sometimes also called bereavement therapy. The terms are often used interchangeably, but it’s worth remembering that grief counseling can help you with any of the causes of your grief.

The counseling won’t make you forget the cause of your grief or change who you are, but rather give you a safe place to work through those feelings with a professional to guide you in a healthy direction.

No matter the cause, the goal of grief counseling isn’t to stop you from feeling sad entirely, but rather to help you cope with the pain of your loss so that you can live your life again. It can help you cope in both the short term (e.g., arranging funerals and burials) and long term (e.g., living without your loved one). The counseling won’t make you forget the cause of your grief or change who you are, but rather give you a safe place to work through those feelings with a professional to guide you in a healthy direction.

How Does It Work?

Grief counseling can come in a number of forms, because grief itself can come in a number of forms. There is traditional grief, but there’s also complicated grief and traumatic grief. Complicated grief is when intense, debilitating feelings of grief linger for months, even years, after the loss or event. Traumatic grief can occur when the loss is sudden and severe, like if your loved died unexpectedly or you witnessed it. After meeting with your counselor, they’ll be able to determine what type of grief you’re experiencing and the best treatment method for you.

Your counselor may recommend one or several of these methods of therapy, or even prescription medication in some cases.

Once you’ve met with your therapist or counselor, they’ll figure out the best technique to deal with your grief, though you may try several. This may be as simple as one-on-one discussions with your counselor as a means of catharsis or working through any negative feelings you may have. Other times, working within a group setting may be more effective for you. Your counselor could also recommend taking up writing or art as a creative outlet for your emotions. Finally, you they may ask you to try acceptance and commitment therapy (which can help you accept your negative feelings) or cognitive behavioral therapy (which focuses on changing negative behaviors by changing your thought patterns).

One or several of treatment methods may be recommended as forms of therapy, as everyone deals with grief differently. Prescription medication could also be recommended for treatment, like in cases of complicated grief or grief that’s developed into other mental health issues, like depression.

What are the Costs?

With the range of treatment options for grief counseling comes an equally wide range of potential costs. There is no national standard for costs associated with therapy, but an estimated range per 45-minute session is $75 to $200, or $3,900 to $10,400 annually if you meet each week. Of course, there are specialized therapies that can cost more, as well as costs for prescription drugs, if needed. And, these costs may vary depending on where you live and the professionals you see. All together, these costs can quickly add up.

Medicare certainly covers some mental health treatments, with each part of Medicare covering different services.

Luckily, many health insurances offer some form of mental health coverage. Medicare certainly covers some mental health treatments, with each part of Medicare covering different services. Should you need inpatient mental health services at a psychiatric hospital or mental health care in a general hospital, Medicare should cover the care like standard inpatient care. You’ll first need to meet your Part A deductible ($1,484 in 2021, and then owe a daily coinsurance if you continue to get inpatient care after 60 days. For outpatient mental health care, you’ll generally pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount after meeting your Part B deductible ($203 in 2021). Outpatient services can include individual or group psychotherapy with a licensed professional, family counseling in certain circumstances, psychiatric evaluations, medication management, and outpatient medication administration. Medicare also fully covers one depression screening each year and an Annual Wellness visit, which often includes a discussion of your mental health.

If you have privately offered Medicare coverage, like a Medicare Advantage plan, coverage for mental health services will differ based on your specific plan. However, Medicare Advantage plans must cover at least what Original Medicare covers, so you can count on the above information being accurate for your plan, unless it has greater coverage. For example, many Medicare Advantage plans offer prescription drug coverage, which may help pay for any medications your doctor prescribes you. If you have a Medicare Part D plan, which pairs with Original Medicare to help cover your prescription drugs, any antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication you may need should be more affordable. You could also pick up a Medicare Supplement to cover the out-of-pocket costs after Original Medicare. While these don’t directly cover mental health and grief counseling, they can make your coverage of health services more affordable. You can explore Medicare Advantage, Part D, and Medicare Supplement options in your area with the Medicareful Plan Finder.

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If you feel like you need grief therapy, there’s no shame in it. You’ve lost a major component to what made your life feel complete. While you may never fill that hole, with the right counseling, you can learn to live with it and even come out of your grief stronger than before.