A Grief Group for Today’s Teens: Leveraging Human-Centered Design, Technology, and Teen Insights

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May 4, 2021 | 2:00 p.m. Eastern | 11:00 a.m. Pacific (1 hour)
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Presentation Description

Grief practitioners can agree, teens are one of the most difficult groups to get through the door and consistently engage. While 1 in 35 individuals have lost a parent before the age of 16 (US Census 2019), many teens today still experience social isolation due to stigma around discussing parent loss with peers.

Over the past year, we have been developing an evidence-based intervention for teens that have lost a parent. Unlike existing interventions which tend to be outdated, teens who have lost a parent were at the heart of the design process. We began by adapting a rigorously-tested, evidence-based, effective curriculum from the 1990s that had been shown to improve coping skills and wellbeing. We shortened the intervention to fit a more condensed timeline, integrated fun, contemporary activities focused on community building, strategically introduced technology like Zoom and Kahoot!, and adopted a peer-led model in which the curriculum is co-led by a peer (a teen who has lost a parent) and an adult support (an adult with a Masters in a mental health field). This new 10-week skills-based, interactive bereavement curriculum utilizes techniques from behavioral methodologies to build community, cohesion, communication skills, and mindfulness.

Since then, the curriculum has undergone three interactions guided by feedback from both experts and teens., but the work is not yet done The next steps to develop this intervention lie in partnership with field practitioners like yourself. This last phase will look at how to adapt this curriculum to meet the existing needs and requirements of your practice. We hope to co-develop and test this curriculum together with your support.

Learning Objectives

  1. To outline our qualitative methods used, findings and use of human-centered design to develop a peer-led, bereavement support group curriculum
  2. Discuss unexpected feedback from teens, how we managed contradictory feedback from experts, and how we designed the curriculum with an eye for scaling
  3. Review and discuss gaps in current intervention and training material development required for effective execution.

About the Presenters

Alexia Barnes
From public health to organizational health, Alexis worked for fifteen years in training and management roles for nonprofits around the globe. Alexis spent several years in South America and East Africa working on initiatives to strengthen health systems through grassroot community collaboration. After moving back to the U.S. and training to be a Spiritual Director, Alexis shifted her focus towards holistic mental health through a graduate degree in clinical social work with a focus on grief. Alexis is currently completing her last year of training with a Chicago based counseling center offering individually therapy and group work. In addition, Alexis works with SLAP'D (Surviving Life After a Parent's Death) to create virtual spaces for teens to connect and grieve the loss of a parent together. Those experiences and communities drive her passion to be part of a movement and generation working towards new ways of systemic and individual wellbeing.

Amelie Liu serves as the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for SLAP'D (Surviving Life After A Parent Dies, www.slapd.com). Amelie spearheads SLAP’D Stories: the first online collective of interviews of successful individuals, from artists to en-trepreneurs who all have one thing in common: they have lost a parent. SLAP’D Stories is currently on Instagram.

Dana Suskind, MD, is Founder and Co-Director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, Director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program, and Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago. As a surgeon, social scientist, and leading authority on the role parents and caregivers play in promoting children’s healthy brain development, Dr. Suskind approaches her fight against this nation’s achievement and opportunity gaps from a unique and rich perspective rooted in the knowledge that science can and should be the basis for social change.

Julia Chavez is a second year medical student at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. Prior to medical school, she studied Cognitive Sciences at Rice University. She also worked as a lab manager at an emotion regulation neuroscience lab, studying the effects of emotion regulation training on the grief trajectory for bereaved spouses.

Literature References

Literature References
1. Scherer Z. Parental Mortality is Linked to a Variety of Socio-economic and Demographic Factors. United States Census Bureau. Published May 6, 2019. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/05/when-do-we-lose-our-parents.html

2. Bergman A-S, Axberg U, Hanson E. When a parent dies – a systematic review of the effects of support programs for parentally bereaved children and their caregivers. BMC Palliat Care. 2017;16(1):39. doi:10.1186/s12904-017-0223-y

3. Dowdney L. Childhood bereavement following parental death. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2000;41(7):819-830.

4. Melhem NM. Grief in Children and Adolescents Bereaved by Sudden Parental Death. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(9):911. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.101

5. Currier JM, Holland JM, Neimeyer RA. The Effectiveness of Bereavement Interventions With Children: A Meta-Analytic Review of Controlled Outcome Research. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. 2007;36(2):253-259. doi:10.1080/15374410701279669

6. Pham S, Porta G, Biernesser C, et al. The Burden of Bereavement: Early-Onset Depression and Impairment in Youths Bereaved by Sudden Parental Death in a 7-Year Prospective Study. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175(9):887-896. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17070792

7. Graf E. Using Formative Research to Develop a Hospital-Based Perinatal Public Health Intervention in the United States: The Thirty Million Words Initiative Newborn Parent Education Curriculum. Published online 2017. doi:10.15142/T36922