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How do counselling psychologists experience working with clients with suicidal ideation?

Schiza, R. (2021). How do counselling psychologists experience working with clients with suicidal ideation?. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Taking into account the magnitude of the concerns regarding suicide and the profound impact it has on mental health professionals, this study focuses on counselling psychologists’ lived experiences. The specific experiences of counselling psychologists working with clients with suicidal thoughts or ideation have not been previously addressed and this indicates that there is a lack of public awareness regarding the clinical cases that counselling psychologists are exposed to. To address this gap in the literature, eight HCPC-registered counselling psychologists were recruited to participate in this phenomenological research study. The semi-structured interviews were analysed with the use of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, which allowed five super-ordinate themes to emerge: Therapeutic Relationship; The Overriding Feeling of Trepidation; Sense of Urgency; Raison d’Etre and Feeling Vulnerable. Each super-ordinate theme consisted of sub-ordinate themes which helped illuminate an overarching dimension and elucidate different aspects of participants’ experiences. The findings indicated that following clients’ disclosures the therapeutic relationship does not remain unchanged. They also illuminated the emotional responses of practitioners and how sitting with the uncertainty and ambiguity of clients’ disclosures might affect them in their personal space or counselling room. The findings offered insight into how counselling psychologists get into a different mode during the therapeutic sessions. Participants’ narratives demonstrated how the profession of being a practitioner psychologist is interweaved with working with suicidal ideation and how they perceive the nature of their work in relation to their duty of care and limits as professionals. Lastly, findings have also highlighted how vulnerable professionals feel both personally and professionally. This study brings to light counselling psychologists’ complex responses while working with such a sensitive and critical matter, and these are discussed in the light of existing findings. Implications for counselling psychologists’ practice, training and supervision are discussed and further areas for exploration are suggested.

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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