What Does a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist Do?


A grief recovery specialist is a specially trained individual who helps the bereaved move beyond death, divorce, and other losses. They facilitate grief recovery support groups and coordinate grief and bereavement support services for those who've suffered the death of a loved one or other traumatic event.

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A grief recovery specialist oversees group and one-on-one grief recovery sessions as part of a hospital chaplaincy team, hospice providers, schools, prisons, or other such facilities. They're trained to use effective and practical tools that are proven to work in grief recovery.

A grief recovery specialist can be someone who's already working in bereavement counseling, grief counseling, or other types of grief and loss counseling. 

What’s a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist?

A certified grief recovery specialist works with others in the healthcare field, chaplaincies, schools, and other types of institutions to help facilitate the bereavement recovery process for those suffering through loss.

Some of their primary responsibilities are the coordination of services available to the people served by healthcare institutions and other similar companies and organizations, as well as orienting the newly bereaved in obtaining the required unnecessary health post-trauma or post-loss.

The essential tasks and duties of a grief recovery specialist can include the following:

  • Understanding the relationship between members of a family, group, organization, and communities that affect their environment.
  • Performing grief recovery needs and assessments, coordinating facility tours, and providing families with bereavement support in finding appropriate support group placements.
  • Collaborating with different facility administrations and performing clerical duties.
  • Serving as facilitators for grief support groups when needed using evidence-informed practices related to grief and loss.
  • Coordinating and collaborating with various facilities and their support groups.
  • Maintaining communication with adult caregivers, chaplaincy staff, and volunteers to help coordinate schedules with other clinical facilitators.
  • Recruiting volunteer facilitators and providing education and training of new volunteers.
  • Participating in community presentations and advocacy for various community events focusing on grief support for the community, students, or employees of different corporations and institutions.

What’s the Difference Between a Grief Recovery Specialist and a Grief Counselor?

The difference between a grief recovery specialist and a grief counselor centers on the educational background required to obtain certification in each of these fields. A grief recovery specialist doesn’t necessarily need to hold an advanced degree to become accredited or certified as such.

Becoming a grief counselor however, is more complex and does require an advanced four-year degree or higher. These degrees must also be specific to counseling.

Folks from all walks of life can apply to become grief recovery specialists. One of the best-known certification programs is the Grief Recovery Method. Professionals in the grief-related field use this training program to enhance their skills along with laypersons who are either interested in a career change or in helping others coordinate their grief support.

Differences between a grief counselor and grief recovery specialist

The road to becoming a grief counselor can be a long one. However, you may be able to take what you already know and your experiences and use them toward working as a grief recovery specialist. Here are some of what you’ll need for either of these fields.

1. Educational requirements

As a grief counselor, you’ll need, at a minimum, an accredited bachelor's degree.

A career in grief counseling begins with acquiring a relevant bachelor's degree from a four-year accredited institution. Many students pursuing a grief counselor track will choose to study and often pursue degrees in social work, psychology, counseling, or human services. 

In comparison, becoming a grief recovery specialist only requires you to have a desire to help people. There isn't any formal educational foundation needed to start a career in this field. There are specialized courses you can work through online to gain a valuable certification in grief recovery that doesn’t require an advanced degree or college background. 

2. Desire to help others

Both of these career tracks start with a deep desire to help others who are grieving after loss. The grief counselor track requires you to have specific educational background requirements to get started. The most sought-after jobs require an advanced degree such as a master’s or higher. The competition is tough for those who are entering into the field with only a four-year degree. 

However, grief recovery specialists can enjoy the benefits of working with many different types of institutions where grief counselors may also work. A grief recovery specialist steps in to guide those who are mourning toward getting the care and help they need. They act as a liaison between the bereaved and the counselors or therapists they have the option to choose from.

In these cases, a specialist is more like a grief coach helping grieving persons take the necessary steps toward recovery and healing. 

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3. Professional licensure and certification

The road to completing the educational requirements to become a grief counselor can be a long one. After obtaining a master's degree with an accredited institution, you'll need to further complete two years of postgraduate clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed counselor. 

After completing this clinical experience, you'll need to apply for and pass the National Counselor Examination. The passing of this exam entitles you to receive the necessary licenses to practice independently within your jurisdiction.

A grief recovery specialist won’t need any of the above licenses or certification. They can get to work immediately, relying on their personal experiences and other study methods they choose to undertake.

Becoming an expert in this field has nothing to do with how much education you have, but the amount of patience, understanding, empathy, and desire you have. It can be a rewarding career on its own or an enhancement to careers in civil service, clergy, hospice, or social work.

Grief counseling is a form of psychotherapy designed to help people cope with grief-related feelings most commonly associated with the five stages of grief. They can include feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, loneliness, and confusion.

Grief counselors are highly trained to help the bereaved who face these feelings work through their emotions and overcome obstacles on their path to grief recovery. 

Grief recovery specialists are those who dedicate themselves to helping others in more of an administrative role. Their job includes a lot of coordination, seeking out services, finding community resources available to those in need, and ensuring that people are getting the proper grief and bereavement services they’re entitled to as part of their insurance plans or membership services plans. 

Who Typically Uses Grief Recovery Specialists?

Grief recovery specialists are found across all spectrums of the business world, academia, hospitals, and other institutions. You can find them at schools, hospitals, chaplaincy services, social service offices, large corporations, and other similar settings.

Companies and individuals alike benefit from the efforts, knowledge, and expertise of a grief recovery specialist. Although most individuals may never need to hire this type of specialist, they’ll likely come in contact with one at least once during their lifetimes.

School districts will utilize grief recovery specialists to assist with grief support and debriefings following a student, parent, or teacher's death. Hospitals and hospice care providers will enlist a grief recovery specialist to coordinate the patient's and their family's grief support services.

Corporations will hire a grief recovery specialist to coordinate counseling services and bereavement leave for employees who’ve suffered a catastrophic loss.

How Do You Become a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist?

You don’t need an advanced degree to become a grief recovery specialist. You simply need a strong desire to help people who are grieving. Certified grief recovery specialists come from a variety of professions including clergy, mental health care professionals, teachers, and doctors to homemakers, retirees, and part-timers. 

The training and certification programs are short and intensive. They’re specifically designed to zero in on the training methods that are very specific to grief and bereavement. All certification programs will typically include tips and methods to effectively counsel clients who are faced with loss, although a grief recovery specialist is not certified to offer grief counseling or therapy to clients. 

Here’s a general list of what you’ll need to help others with the different types of grief stemming from loss without first needing to obtain an advanced degree. 

1. Have a desire to help

You don't have to change careers in order to help others who are trying to navigate their grief recovery. Many people become certified grief recovery specialists to help those in need without giving up their full-time jobs. All you need is a desire to help others and a knack for scheduling and coordinating.

Grief recovery specialists don’t offer grief counseling or therapy services outside of the bereavement care and support they’re certified to offer. 

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2. Get training

Obtaining the necessary training to become a grief recovery specialist is rather quick and painless. Anyone with a desire to help others with the grief and bereavement process can qualify to become a certified grief recovery specialist.

The grief recovery method provides one of the most well-known online training sessions. In just four short days you can train to become a certified grief recovery specialist in the Grief Recovery Method.

3. Maintain and increase knowledge

Once you go through the process of becoming a certified grief recovery specialist, you'll typically need to maintain or increase your knowledge, education, and training. You can maintain or improve your professional standing by participating in training workshops, joining professional organizations, and conducting individual research and reading.

4. Typical course outline 

There are several certification programs that a person can pursue in obtaining their grief recovery specialist certification. However, this particular course of study outlined by Evergreen Certifications, an online certification provider, lists all of the essential coursework needed to successfully claim your certification.

For example, you'll study grief theory beyond the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief model, such as Worden’s tasks of mourning, the dual process model of coping, continuing bonds theory, and the grief and attachment theory. You also learn about the circumstances of bereavement, grief counseling strategies throughout a patient's life span, and specialized grief treatment strategies.

Grief Recovery Specialist Functions and Duties

A grief recovery specialist has different functions and duties from that of a certified grief counselor. Their duties are centered on helping individuals obtain the necessary grief support services offered through hospitals, schools, businesses, and institutions. Their role is still an essential and integral part of the complete grief support services needed for anyone to successfully heal from the pain and sorrow stemming from a loss.

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