A Therapist's Guide to Treating Grief after the Loss of a Pet: A Three-Tier Model

Tamara A. K. Miller, Maurice F. Prout, Mary Rourke, Carin Lefkowitz, & Bret Boyer

Widener University, Chester, Pennsylvania

Grief after the death of a pet has been demonstrated to parallel grief after the death of a person, yet many people report feeling a lack of support from family, friends, and even therapy providers when experiencing pet bereavement (Archer & Winchester, 1994; Chur-Hansen, 2010; Gosse & Barnes, 1994; Sharkin & Knox, 2003; Stewart, 1983; Wrobel & Dye, 2003). This lack of perceived social support is characteristic of "disenfranchised grief," which can result in situations where survivors do not believe they have a right to grieve (Doka, 2002). Furthermore, there is a scarcity of literature offering therapy providers information on how to best work with this subset of grievers. The findings of recent research regarding pet bereavement, grief patterns, and grief therapy were used to design a three-tier pet-bereavement program for therapists to use with individuals after the loss of a pet. The selected intervention offered in Tier Two presents Therapy After the Loss of a Pet (TALP), a six-session intervention which integrates cognitive behavioral therapy with psychoeducation, resilience work, and coping skills in order to support an adaptive grief experience for the specific nature of grief after the loss of a pet.

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Keywords: bereavement, grief, grief therapy, pet loss
Posted in 2014, Volume 2, No. 1