Therapists who experience client suicide and attempted suicide: Modelling predictors
Aim: Client suicide or attempted suicide is a challenging event in the professional practice of psychotherapy. Better understanding of the characteristics of those therapists more likely to experience such challenges may allow us to establish and target better support mechanisms. This paper models personal and professional characteristics that best predict therapists who have experienced client suicide or attempted suicide.
Methods: An internet-based survey was used to collect data from a large national Australian sample of psychotherapists and counsellors (N=1003). The survey was based on the Development of Psychotherapists Common Core Questionnaire (DPCCQ - Australian-version) and included new questions about the frequencies of 16 types of professional difficulties experienced by therapists in the last 12 months. These included suicide of a client and attempted suicide of a client. Structural equation modelling is used to model the personal and professional factors that best predict these challenging professional events.
Results: Suicide of a client in the last 12 months was reported by 6% of therapists, while 23% reported attempted suicide of a client. The personal and professional characteristics associated with experiencing each of these challenging events are presented. Personal characteristics include early family environment, interpersonal manner in close personal relationships and wellbeing.
Discussion: The identified pattern of factors associated with client completed or attempted suicide can inform understanding of those therapists who may require specific forms of support. This has implications for training, supervision and ongoing professional development