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Coping with self-destructive forces

Wolfart, Gislene (2011). Coping with self-destructive forces. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This is the first study to investigate and compare two distinct Professions’ (i.e. Psychologists and Psychiatrists) experiences of working with suicidal patients. This study utilises a mixed methods design with strong emphasis on qualitative methods. It comprises a Survey Questionnaire completed by 88 professionals; and Semi-structured Interviews with 6 Psychologists and 6 Psychiatrists analysed according to Interpretative Phenomenological Analyses (IPA) guidelines. Despite some differences in Professions’ training and practice characteristics, qualitative findings provide support for a shared experience amongst professionals. Three main themes were identified: (i) Emotional Challenges arising as a consequence of the work; (ii) the Stigma that permeates the phenomenon, leading to isolation and clinicians’ questioning of self-concepts; and (iii) ways to Survive the Experience and maintain clear thinking within practice. It is suggested that clinicians who struggle during the work with suicidality experience similar feelings to suicidal clients. Following patients’ completed suicides, clinicians seem to go through a more intense experience. Using psychoanalytic literature, this phenomenon was understood as a Post-parallel Process to their clients, which is marked by the disintegration of clinicians’ self-representations. It is proposed that, when the experience is uncontained, clinicians may act out their feelings in a similar manner to their clients. However, in the presence of Containment clinicians may go through a Redemption Process and use their tragic and painful experience as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Although such model seems to account for the differing suicide rates found amongst Professions further research is needed to test its proposition.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Departments: Doctoral Theses
City, University of London (-2022) > School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
[thumbnail of Wolfart 2011 Thesis (no client study).pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible due to copyright restrictions.


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