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"It is like walking a dangerous tightrope": psychotherapists experience of working with suicidal clients

Betancour Roth, J. (2021). "It is like walking a dangerous tightrope": psychotherapists experience of working with suicidal clients. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Psychologists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists have always had to manage risk of suicide. In the mental health context of the UK today the assessment and management of suicide risk holds an expectation that the psychotherapist will predict and prevent suicides. Working with someone that is suicidal evokes a myriad of responses in therapists and can impact them profoundly both professionally and personally in many different ways. This experience holds both the immediacy and urgency of facing a human being who feels unable to live, as well as the expectations in a wider context that they ought to be able to predict and prevent the suicides. This research study explored eight psychotherapists (three Counsellors, three Psychotherapists, and two Counselling Psychologists) experience of working with suicidal clients. Employing an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) methodology and utilising semi-structured interviews as the method of data collection. Analysing the transcripts according to the method recommended in IPA, three supraordinate themes (traditionally known as ‘master themes’) emerged: ‘Emotional labour’, which refers to how working with suicide risk impacts the participants; ‘Navigating through the risk’, which looks at how the participants understand and navigate the risk work; and ‘What makes or breaks’, which discusses the structures and processes that facilitate or impede this work for them. The themes are explored in relation to the existing literature on working with suicidality. The possible implications for clinical practice are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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