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By Jianping Wang, MD, PhD, Beijing Normal University

Jianping Wang, MD, PhD is a member of the Beck Institute International Advisory Committee and has done extensive CBT training through Beck Institute. We are pleased to share this blog about her important work preparing grief counselors in mainland China to deliver effective interventions to people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.

More than 4,000 people in mainland China, including over 3,800 in Wuhan, have lost their lives due to COVID-19. People who lost their loved ones are in need of emotional support and mental health services. However, grief counseling in China is still in its infancy. Faced with the current shortage of professional grief counselors, I collaborated with Professor Yin Man (Amy) Chow from the University of Hong Kong to jointly design a grief intervention project for bereaved people in the context of COVID-19. I previously led a program to explore the system of mental health services for bereaved populations under the support of the National Social Science Fund of China and chaired the 1st International Congress on Grief Research and Intervention in China. Professor M. Katherine Shear, who is widely recognized for her work in bereavement studies, and her team from Columbia University provided support for intervention training and clinical supervision throughout the whole process.

Thanks to research funding and technical support from Beijing Normal University, there are two ongoing studies within the project. The first study will investigate 500 bereaved people’s mental health conditions and psychological needs with surveys and interviews, to understand the mechanisms of bereavement under COVID-19 and therefore provide more pertinent grief counseling services. The second study plans to provide 150 bereaved people in need with eight 90-minute, web-based individual counseling sessions for free. Each session is followed up with group supervision. The intervention study aims to preliminarily explore the effectiveness of grief counseling services and their training programs in the Chinese cultural context and train the first batch of grief counselors in mainland China to provide professional psychological services to the bereaved in the pandemic.

Our team consists of training experts, supervisor consultants, supervisors, counselors, clinical assessors, technicians and volunteers. Recruitment began on March 12, after more than a month of preparation. Nearly 200 counselors and supervisors were selected from thousands of applicants. After eight training sessions (all free of charge; see annex), 40 counselors (with 30 substitutes) and 15 supervisors (with 10 substitutes) have been selected. Bereavement clients are also being recruited; more than 140 people have registered. The recruitment poster (in Chinese) can be found using the link at the bottom of this article. Feel free to contact us if you are in need.

Building on the positive feedback received during the eight training sessions, currently we are training graduate students in clinical and counseling psychology to conduct the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 (SCID) and clinical interviews with bereaved people. Formal counseling services are expected to start in mid-May, followed by free advanced training for counselors. The progress and grief-related articles will be updated on our WeChat official account (see poster link below) to provide cutting-edge grief research to the general public and professionals.

Through this project, which has been reported extensively in the media, pioneering grief interventions and research will be explored in mainland China and will lay a strong foundation for the future development of grief counseling.

Link to recruitment poster (in Chinese)

Contact e-mail: griefconfer_bnu@126.com

Annex:

The eight training sessions completed were as follows:

1) The basics of grief and grief counseling (Dr. Jianping Wang, Professor, Faculty of Psychology, Beijing Normal University)

2) The application of group counseling in grief interventions (Dr. Fumin Fan, Professor of Counseling Psychology, Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University)

3) The continuation of connections: New Trends in Narrative Grief Counseling (Dr. Ming Li, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Beijing Forestry University)

4) Principles of grief counseling after COVID-19 deaths (Dr. M. Katherine Shear, Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University School of Social Work)

5) Ethical issues in grief counseling (Xiaoming Jia, Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Beijing Institute of Technology)

6) First interview and evaluation of grief counseling (Dr. Yin Man (Amy) Chow, Professor, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong)

7) Grief counseling principles and techniques (Dr. Yin Man (Amy) Chow, Professor, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong)

8) Family therapy for the bereaved (Dr. David Kissane, Head of Psychiatry, Monash University)