Referral Guidelines

Referral Guidelines

For Mental Health Professionals and Agencies

Kara offers two kinds of grief support services for bereaved individuals: peer support and psychotherapy. We hope the information summarized below will assist you when recommending Kara services to your clients. Please contact us at 650-321-5272 with questions.

Peer Support

Kara’s peer support program is for those who are experiencing “normal” grief without complications. Peer support is available as individual counseling and in support groups. Individual support can also be offered to those navigating a terminal illness (their own or another's). In the peer support program, services are provided by trained volunteers who have personal experience with grief and loss. These volunteers participate in an initial 21-hour training program that teaches them how to support bereaved individuals. Our peer support model advocates listening, speaking, and acting from the heart in service to others. After this formal training, the volunteer counselors and group facilitators receive on-going supervision, consultation and training from staff, clinical advisors, and experts in bereavement and end-of-life care.

Grief-Related Psychotherapy

While Kara’s peer support model is appropriate for many people, some clients have circumstances that complicate their grief work (see list below). When peer support is not sufficient to address a client’s needs, Kara offers referrals to psychotherapy, either through Kara’s internal psychotherapy program or through external resources. Kara’s internal psychotherapy services are provided by therapist interns who have excellent clinical training as well as a depth of knowledge and experience in helping clients deal with complex issues of grief and loss.

To ensure that clients receive the level of support that is appropriate for their needs, Kara does an initial assessment interview with each potential client. Factors that would indicate therapy as the appropriate support rather than peer counseling include:

  • Complicated personal or family issues
  • Severe depression or anxiety
  • Stress reactions due to traumatic circumstances, such as witnessing the death
  • Inability to function at work, home, or school for a prolonged period after a death
  • Desire for family or couples counseling rather than individual support
  • Thought disorder illness, for example, schizophrenia
  • Active substance abuse, including those currently in rehabilitation programs
  • Active suicidal threat or self-harming behavior
  • Need for individual support for a child or teen|
  • Pre-existing issues of clinical focus that re-emerge or require further support

Clients who receive peer support at Kara may also be in therapy, either within Kara or with an outside therapist. When appropriate, Kara's counseling staff will work collaboratively in a support role with the primary therapist or physician.

Funding Considerations

Since our inception, Kara services have been made possible by the generous donations of our clients, volunteers, staff, and community. In keeping with this ideal, fees are not charged for our peer support services but donations are suggested (one's ability to donate never affects service availability). For psychotherapy services Kara does charge a standard fee per session. Sliding scale fees may be available based on a demonstrated need.