Dr. Rachael D. Nolan Speaks About Her Research Concerning The Grief Recovery Method As An Evidence Based Program For Taking Action

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In this guest blog I am sharing the wisdom of Grief Recovery Specialist, Steve Moeller, from The Grief Recovery Institute. I hope you find this blog helpful.

In a previous article, we spoke about the research done at Kent State University concerning the value of The Grief Recovery Method for taking action to deal with the emotional pain of loss.  We were fortunate to be able to talk with Dr. Rachael Nolan, who conducted this research project with Dr. Jeffrey S. Hallam, at the College of Public Health at Kent State.  Their research was recently published in The American Journal of Health Education.

Here is that conversation:

What is your position at Kent State and your educational background?

Currently, I am a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the College of Public Health. However, I also hold various faculty appointments at other institutions. Professionally, I am a Certified Public Health Educator (CPH) and gerontologist (GC) with an educational background that consists of a PhD in Public Health-Prevention Science, an MPH, and a BsPH.

What drew you into being interested in researching grief support programs?  (Was it based on a personal loss?)

I came to the Grief Recovery Method after the tragic loss of my father. I was diagnosed with PTSD and had gone through traditional routes of clinical therapy, medication, and the whole nine yards. I just was not experiencing any reprieve of my symptoms, nor was I healing from the experience. A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of the GRM, which later I found a local group being conducted at Crossroads Hospice. I first attended the 10-week group as a community member and found it to be substantially beneficial. A few years later, as fate would have it, I wound up being seated next to the infamous, Lois Hall [a certified Grief Recovery Method Specialist and Certification Trainer for The Grief Recovery Institute]. She and I briefly discussed our backgrounds, grief, and the GRM, to which I mentioned that I was seeking something to do for my dissertation. Lois said, “Well, I have a project idea for you.” Hook, line, and sinker. That was all it took. I have been doing research on grief and grief recovery ever since.

Why did you select The Grief Recovery Method to investigate, versus other nationally available support groups?

I choose the GRM because I believe in the power of the program. I am first and foremost a scientist, which by nature means that I am a skeptic. For my own personal grief, I tried various other self-help books, programs, therapeutic interventions, and medication but nothing worked until I went through the GRM. If the GRM could work with me, I knew it could work for others; and I wanted to be able to show that through my research.

In just a few sentences, how was your initial research conducted?

To measure the effectiveness of any program, there first has to be a valid and reliable instrument or tool to do the measuring with. So, my first task was to develop an instrument that measured variables of the GRM that are believed to influence grief and promote grief recovery. These variables are grievers’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors or KABB for short. Once the instrument was developed, the next step was to use the instrument in a study to measure grievers scores on KABB both before and after receiving the GRM program. The point was to see if any change in scores on KABB occurred after receiving the GRM when compared to before when grievers had not yet received the program. Based on the results of the ladder study, we were able to show that 1) YES. The GRM does what it is supposed to do (i.e. influence variables of grief), and 2) Establish initial evidence demonstrating the program’s effectiveness.

What additional research is planned?

Additional research planned consists of a longitudinal study that follows grievers over time to assess the long-term effect of the GRM program on grief, as well as future evaluation on all the various GRM programs (When Children Grieve, Moving Beyond Loss, Pet Loss, etc.) and their formats (8-week VS. 10-week VS. Online, etc.). So, a lot more work has yet to be done.

Regarding the term, “evidence based,” what has your research told you thus far about the value the GRM has to offer?

My research has told me that the value of the GRM program lies in the fact that it was created by grievers for grievers and that is why I believe (and now have shown through my research) that it works. As far as what the GRM offers grievers, it provides them with a tried and true program that has been continuously refined and used time and time again over the last 40+ years, across multiple countries, AND in multiple languages, to help them heal from loss(es). For me, the GRM is not just a program but a way of life. Once you’ve been through a program, your life continues to be influenced and improved by the skills and tools you receive and learn how to use. However, it would be remiss of me if I did not also mention how the GRM establishes a community of grievers who not only heal themselves but each other through fellowship, emotional honesty, and being a heart with ears. To me, this aspect is so critical.

Was there something specific about how the GRM works that makes it effective, or do you think that your research suggests that any kind of “grief support” could be just as effective?

The short answer is YES. There are many aspects unique to the program that make it effective such as being secular so that it can touch everyone and the fact that it was created by and is delivered by people who grieve. I have spent a lot of time reading a lot of grief research. Many programs claim to be evidence-based but they have never truly been evaluated for their effectiveness nor have they been exposed to scientific, theoretical scrutiny. Unlike these other so-called, self-proclaimed evidence-based programs, the GRM has been both tested and evaluated for its effectiveness. The GRM has also been subjected to scientific scrutiny and is one if not, THE BEST and ONLY program for grief. So, to make a long story short, I do not believe all “grief support” programs work…but the GRM does work.

Would you recommend the GRM to a family member, based on your findings?

Without hesitation or doubt, absolutely and unequivocally YES! In fact, since having experienced the power of the program myself with my own grief, I have recommended the program a countless number of times to others. Although, now, I am even more excited to recommend the GRM to others because I have my published research to back-up the claim made by me and so many other grievers that the program DOES WORK!

Author’s Note:  We have included links to the abstracts of Drs. Nolan and Hallam two articles in The American Journal of Health Education below.  We are also proud to note that as a part of their research and in an effort to fully understand how the Grief Recovery Method is presented to grievers, both of these educators have undergone the training to become Grief Recovery Method Specialists, Certified by The Grief Recovery Institute.

Links to abstracts of these articles:

Construct Validity of the Theory of Grief Recovery (TOGR): A New Paradigm Toward Our Understanding of Grief and Loss 

Measurement Development and Validation for Construct Validity of the Treatment: The Grief Recovery Method® Instrument (GRM-I) 

(To actually read these articles in full, you must be a subscriber to The American Journal of Health Education.)

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Tammy Adams loves to problem solve, inspire and motivate others who are ready and committed to change. Tammy has spent over 30 years in the field of education and as a Certified Life and Executive Coach Tammy teaches individuals to challenge and conquer their limiting beliefs and insecurities to create the life of their choosing. As a Grief Recovery Method Specialist Tammy understands that unresolved grief can limit an individual’s capacity for happiness and is gifted at supporting individuals through the pain and isolation cause by an emotional loss, of any kind, to a place of happiness they believed no longer existed. Tammy’s clients say, “Tammy helped me unpack the baggage and put a smile on my face in the process. It’s a rare quality for someone to fully listen without judgement but yet still steer you in the right direction.”