A license authorizes a person to practice in a particular specialty in healthcare. Certification through a national board affirms advanced knowledge, skill, and practice to meet the challenges of that specialty, and it contributes to better patient outcomes. Certification is a voluntary process, and is sought by those who care enough to earn and maintain the highest credentials in their specialty, thereby demonstrating a commitment to excellence in practice. Certification requires coursework, experience in the field, successful completion of a standardized exam, and ongoing continuing education and professional development. (Note that certification differs from programs offering only a certificate upon completion of course work, in that certificate programs do not offer standardized testing of knowledge and do not require ongoing continuing education.) ~ Marty Tousley
A reader writes: I am at a crossroads in my life. I feel I am being drawn to grief education. I want to become a certified bereavement counselor/educator/specialist. I have no idea where my path is going, only that I need to take the journey. I have been told there is special training/certification I need for that, but I can't find anything at the different universities. Any information you can provide would be helpful.
My response: Below is a list of the programs of which I am aware. (Note that links to these programs are accurate as of February 2023. If you know of any other reputable program you'd like to see listed here, please feel free to add it in the Comments section, below.)
- The Association for Death Education and Counseling® (ADEC) is the premier international, professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence and recognizing diversity in death education, care of the dying, grief counseling and research in thanatology. Based on quality research, theory and practice, the association provides information, support and resources to its international, multicultural, multidisciplinary membership and to the public. ADEC offers a two-level certification program for thanatology professionals awarding the credentials of Certification in Thanatology (CT) and Fellow in Thanatology (FT).
- Undergraduate nursing students at The University of Rhode Island may declare a “minor” in thanatology (study of loss, death, and grief).
- Dr. Alan Wolfelt's Center for Loss and Life Transition offers training courses leading to a Death and Grief Studies Certification.
- Under the direction of Dr. Robert Neimeyer, the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition offers both onsite and online training in grief counseling and therapy leading toward Certification in Grief Therapy as Meaning Reconstruction.
- With a focus on traumatic grief, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore offers Compassionate Bereavement Care® Certification, sponsored by her Center for Loss and Trauma in partnership with the MISS Foundation and the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Family Trust.
- The American Grief Academy offers several different certifications: the Grief Service Provider, the Grief Support Group Facilitator, the Cemetery Grief Service Provider, the Military Grief Support Provider, the Insurance Industry Grief Support Provider, and the Grief Management Specialist.
- Madonna University offers three academic programs, with certificates at both undergraduate and graduate levels:
- Grand Valley State University offers a post-baccalaureate Interprofessional Certificate in Palliative and Hospice Care. The program is designed to prepare individuals with a deep understanding of the personal, professional, economic and legal perspectives of delivering care to patients facing life-limiting disease, terminal illness and death.
- King's University College at the Western University in London, Ontario (Canada) offers a Certificate Program in Grief and Bereavement Studies, as well as minor and major modules as part of an undergraduate degree in Thanatology. Most of its Thanatology courses are available by distance (email) education.
- The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an online Grief Support Specialist Certificate training program for counselors, clergy, coaches, educators and other healthcare personnel.
- The Grief Recovery Method offers its own certification training program, based on the work and writings of John W. James and Russell Friedman.
- The Creative Grief Coaching Studio, co-curated by Kara LC Jones and Cath Duncan, offers the Creative Grief Coaching Certification Program.
- The National Center for Crisis Management, in collaboration with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, offers members the opportunity to achieve certification in traumatic stress and crisis management specialty areas, including Certification in Bereavement Trauma (CBT)
- The Spiritual Care Programme offers the Contemplative End-of-Life Certificate Program, inspired by Sogyal Rinpoche's The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, bringing together authentic and practical contemplative resources with the knowledge and skills of modern hospice and palliative care.
- The International Grief Institute offers two training programs: for funeral professionals, Certified AfterCare Specialist™; for bereaved who want to coach other community members through grief: Certified iCare Grief Support Specialist™
- Professional grief counselor Teresa Whalen offers comprehensive distance education, training and Certification in Pet Loss Grief Counseling.
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- Therapist Credentials: What Do All Those Letters Mean?
- Think You're Certified As A Grief Guide or Death Doula? Think Again
- Death Studies Bring New Life for Hood Graduates
- Why I Became a Certified Hospice and Palliative ICU Nurse
- Grief Healing: On Becoming A Grief Counselor