How Suicide impacts Psychotherapists
One of the greatest fears of psychotherapists is that one of their clients will commit suicide. Here are some common reactions of psychotherapists when one of their clients commits suicide. In some ways these reactions are sequential, but no exact concrete sequence is well documented. Here is a list to consider.
- There is a personal, traumatic reaction to the reality that a client has committed suicide. Sometimes a dissociative experience.
- Immediate emotional reactions (sadness, grief, guilt, crying, even anger) are common.
- Serious questions arise about the perceived quality of the therapeutic relationship, as well as clinical competence.
- It is also common to worry habitually about the opinions of colleagues and supervisors regarding personal competence.
- Another common issue is concern about professional risks – being sued, ethical consequences, liability insurance cost increases, possible legal fees, etc.
- Residual guilt and shame lingers for quite a long time after the event. A common question is: What could I have done?????
- The ultimate reality of human suffering and how some people would rather die than face another day of it awakens the mind.
- Sometimes stigma remains regarding your role and your clinical skills.
- Some psychotherapists require professional help, even medication, as a means of dealing with this emotional issue.
- This reality – yes, it will happen to even the most skilled psychotherapists – stimulates interest in learning more and obtaining skilled supervision on high-risk clinical cases.
For more information refer to: …Impact of client suicides. (January, 2017). New England Psychologist, p. 3.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness