Psychological interventions for individuals bereaved by homicide: a systematic review

Filipa Alves-Costa, Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis, Hope Christie, Mariette van Denderen, Sarah Halligan

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11 Citations (SciVal)
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Research has demonstrated that approximately 45–50% of individuals show healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning in the first 12 months post-loss. Homicidal bereavement (loss due to murder or manslaughter) does not appear to follow this pattern. Homicide-related mental health difficulties are a serious problem worldwide, displaying high rates of lifetime incidence, high chronicity, and role impairment. Individuals are at increased risk to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complicated grief (CG), and depression. Nevertheless, a systematic review specifically on the efficacy of psychological interventions following homicidal loss has not yet been conducted. The current systematic review (registered via PROSPERO) aimed to review the psychological interventions available and report their effectiveness. Of 77 records, 7 met predefined inclusion criteria. Studies presented different methodologies, tested different clinical models, and treatment conditions. Thus, a narrative systematic review was conducted. Studies included manualized interventions to deliver 1:1 and group sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy, restorative retelling, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing were the main models used together with psychoeducational elements about trauma and grief responses. Overall, symptoms of PTSD, CG, and depression decreased significantly postintervention. Sustained improvements were reported for PTSD and depressive symptoms at the follow-up measurements. Mixed results were found regarding how individual (age, gender) and external factors (time since loss, relationship with the deceased) impact on symptom progression. As a result of differences in methodologies, categorization of therapies, methodological differences, and small sample sizes, important questions remain unanswered. Further randomized controlled trials and expert consensus could be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-803
JournalTrauma, Violence and Abuse
Issue number4
Early online date22 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • bereavement
  • homicide
  • loss
  • mental health
  • psychological interventions
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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