Katherine Shear

Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry in Social Work


Dr. Katherine Shear graduated with honors from the University of Chicago and attended Tufts University Medical School. After completing residencies in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry, and a research fellowship in psychosomatic medicine, she joined the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College. During her tenure at Payne Whitney Clinic, she established the Department’s first clinical research program in Anxiety Disorders. This mulitdisciplinary group served as an important training site for pre- and post-doctoral students, fellows, and faculty, and established strong collaborative links, both within Cornell and at other institutions. Dr. Shear’s well funded research group obtained grants from NIMH, private foundations, and pharmaceutical companies. Their work made a major contribution in the area of Panic Disorder, including theoretical and practice-based publications.

In 1992, Dr. Shear moved to the University of Pittsburgh where she served as Professor of Psychiatry until January 2006. She continued to conduct her own NIMH funded treatment studies and successfully mentored others in the development and implementation of funded research in anxiety disorders, depression, and grief. While in Pittsburgh, Dr. Shear obtained an NIMH infrastructure grant for clinical services research targeting women with mood and anxiety disorders. This grant supported a series of innovative pilot projects initiated by more than a dozen different investigators, including trainees and faculty from a range of disciplines. Projects were performed at sites that served low income minorities, in rural communities, in primary care medical facilities and in community agencies serving women victims of abuse.

Dr. Shear has also helped develop and test a variety of assessment instruments including the widely used Panic Disorder Severity Scale, the newer Generalized Anxiety Disorder Severity Scale, a structured version of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety for assessing adult separation anxiety disorder, and several new grief assessment measures. She has served on the scientific advisory board of the Italy-based Spectrum Project (www.spectrum-project.org).

Most recently, Dr. Shear has worked in the area of bereavement and grief.  In the mid-1990s, Dr. Shear and her colleagues identified the syndrome of complicated grief, an intense long-lasting form of grief.   She developed and tested a novel treatment for the newly identified condition which culminated in the publication of the first randomized controlled treatment study for complicated grief in June 2005.  In September 2007, Dr. Shear received a five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct the first clinical study comparing the efficacy of two different types of psychotherapy for the treatment of complicated grief in older adults. In August 2009, Dr. Shear received another five-year grant from NIMH to conduct a multisite treatment study to test the effectiveness of antidepressant medication in treating complicated grief when taken with or without complicated grief treatment.

Dr. Shear is the Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University School of Social Work and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  She is Director of the Bereavement and Grief Program and Director of the Complicated Grief Research and Training Program at Columbia University School of Social Work.  She is also Director of the Complicated Grief Treatment Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Dr. Shear currently serves on the Advisory Council for the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).  She also serves as Advisor to DSM-5 workgroup on complicated grief and adult separation anxiety and has been appointed as Member of the WHO ICD11 Working Group on Mood and Anxiety Disorders. 

Research Interests:

  • Complicated grief research
  • Complicated grief and the DSM-5
  • Bereavement and grief
  • Psychotherapy research
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Adult separation anxiety disorder
  • Women's mental health

Current Grants:

  • Complicated Grief Treatment in Older Adults (NIH)
  • Optimizing Treatment for Complicated Grief (NIH)
  • Treating Children with Trauma: An Evidence Based Curriculum (NIH)
  • Optimizing Treatment for Complicated Grief (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

Current Projects:

Selected Publications:

Journal Articles

Shear, M. K., Simon, N., Wall, M., Zisook, S., Neimeyer, R., Duan, N., et al. (2011). Complicated grief and related bereavement issues for DSM-5. Depression and Anxiety, 28(2), 103-117.

Simon, N. M., Wall, M. M., Keshaviah, A., Dryman, M. T., Leblanc, N. J., & Shear, M. K. (2011). Informing the symptom profile of complicated grief. Depression and Anxiety, 28: 118-126.

Shear, M. K., McLaughlin, K. A., Ghesquiere, A., Gruber, M. J., Sampson, N. A., & Kessler, R. C. (2011). Complicated grief associated with Hurricane Katrina. Depression and Anxiety, 28(8), 648-657.

Meert, K. L., Shear, M. K., Newth, C. J., Harrison, R., Berger, J., Zimmerman, J., et al. (2011). Follow-up study of complicated grief among parents eighteen months after a child's death in the pediatric intensive care unit. J Palliat Med, 14(2), 207-214.

Sung, S. C., Dryman, M. T., Marks, E., Shear, M. K., Ghesquiere, A., Fava, M., et al. (2011). Complicated grief among individuals with major depression: Prevalence, comorbidity, and associated features. Journal of Affect Disorders.

Shear, M. K. (2010). Exploring the role of experiential avoidance from the perspective of attachment theory and the dual process model. Omega (Westport), 61(4), 357-369.

Zisook, S., Reynolds, C. F., 3rd, Pies, R., Simon, N., Lebowitz, B., Madowitz, J., et al. (2010). Bereavement, complicated grief, and DSM, part 1: depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 71(7), 955-956.

Zisook, S., Simon, N. M., Reynolds, C. F., 3rd, Pies, R., Lebowitz, B., Young, I. T., et al. (2010). Bereavement, complicated grief, and DSM, part 2: complicated grief. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 71(8), 1097-1098.

Shear, M. K. (2009). Grief and depression: Treatment decisions for bereaved children and adults. American Journal of Psychiatry, 166(7), 746-748.

Zisook, S., & Shear, M. K. (2009). Grief and bereavement: what psychiatrists need to know. World Psychiatry, 8(2), 67-74.

Mancini, A. D., Robinaugh, D., Shear, M. K., & Bonanno, G. A. (2009). Does attachment avoidance help people cope with loss? The moderating effects of relationship quality. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 65(10), 1127-1136.

Zisook, S., & Shear, M. K. (2009). Grief and bereavement: what psychiatrists need to know. World Psychiatry, 8(2), 67-74.

Porensky, E. K., et al. (2009). The burden of late-life generalized anxiety disorder: effects on disability, health-related quality of life, and healthcare utilization. Americal Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17(6), 473-82.

Lenze, E. J., Rollman, B. L., Shear, M. K., Dew, M. A., Pollock, B. G., Ciliberti, C., et al. (2009). Escitalopram for older adults with generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 301(3), 295-303.

Book Chapters

Shear, M. K., Boelen, P., Neimeyer, R.A. (2011). Treating complicated grief: Converging approaches. In R.A. Neimeyer, D.L. Harris, H.R. Winokuer, G.F. Thornton, (Eds.), Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society.  Routledge. 

Mulhare E., Guesquire, A., & Shear, M. K. (2010). Attachment, separation and anxiety disorders. In H. B. Simpson, Y. Neria, R. Lewis-Fernandez, & F. Schneier (Eds.), Anxiety Disorders: Theory, Research, and Clinical Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. 

Zisook S., Shear, M. K. (2009). Understanding and managing adult bereavement in palliative care. In H.M. Chochinov and W. Breitbart (Eds.), Handbook of Psychiatry in Palliative Care, 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press.