Complicated Grief Treatment Bested Interpersonal Psychotherapy in the Elderly

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Complicated grief treatment (CGT) is more effective than grief-focused interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) in treating complicated grief (CG) in older adults, according to results of a clinical trial published in JAMA Psychiatry.

CG occurs most often in elderly people and can be a debilitating condition. However, no full-scale randomized clinical trial has studied CG in an older adult population. 

Noting this gap, researchers enrolled 151 participants aged 50 years or older with scores of at least 30 on the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG) in a randomized clinical trial. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either CGT or IPT, a treatment commonly effective in treating depression. Therapy consisted of weekly sessions over the course of 16 weeks, with ICG scores being collected before treatment and at 8, 12, 16, and 20 weeks.

Both CGT and IPT improved CG symptoms in patients. However, the response rate for CGT was more than twice that of IPT. Additionally, CGT had a greater effect on illness severity, with only 22 participants in the CGT group experiencing at least moderate CG after 20 weeks compared with 41 in the IPT group. 

CGT also had a more rapid effect in decreasing symptoms, with CGT participants seeing an average weekly decrease in ICG score of 1.05 points compared with 0.75 points in the IPT group.

Since CGT is so much more effective than IPT in treating CG, these results strongly support the need for health care providers to distinguish CG from depression.

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Complicated grief occurs most often in elderly people.
Complicated grief (CG) is a debilitating condition, most prevalent in elderly persons. However, to our knowledge, no full-scale randomized clinical trial has studied CG in this population.
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