Our Lessons from Our Alumni Series was inspired by several excellent guest alumni lectures during the 2018/19 academic year. We decided to systematically invite more alums back this year, to share the clinical lessons they have learned with our current students.
Each month, we will invite alumni back to campus who share expertise in a particular clinical issue. Each alum will discuss their experience with the issue, including any research they may have completed at MSP (dissertation, on a research team) or after graduation.
In September, in honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we will focus on client suicide.
We are pleased to welcome Michael Kimball, MA (’10), PsyD (’15) on September 18 to discuss his dissertation research on client suicide. He will also talk about his current practice and his career journey since graduation.
Dr. Kimball is a Psychologist practicing in Northern Ohio.
Surviving the Tsunami: The Clinician’s Experience of Client Suicide
This study explored the clinician’s experience of client suicide. The clinician who experiences a client suicide encounters a very personal and individual journey. A review of the available literature revealed seven themes: statistical information, research indicating the lack of research on suicide, occupational hazard, trainee vulnerability, clinician reaction and impact, coping and support, and trauma. For this study, 10 clinicians who previously experienced clientsuicide were interviewed. The narrative research model was used to investigate the experiences of the participants. The data analysis generated four themes and 13 subthemes: (a) The Tsunami: Initial Impact, with subthemes of shock, grief, anger, and sadness; (b) Rubble: Picking Up the Pieces, with subthemes of professional helplessness and professional doubt; (c) Rebuilding: The Road Back, with subthemes of activating and being heard is healing; and (d) Scars: Enduring Effects, with subthemes of grief, guilt, residual trauma, vigilance, and feeling absolved. The themes were consistent with what is found in the available research. The metaphor of a tsunami conceptualizes the intensity of feelings the research participants report experiencing after a client suicide. After the initial impact, the clinician experiences a shattered sense of competence and confidence. Rebuilding occurs when the clinician activates the recovery process and has healing encounters with others. The trauma of a client suicide leaves an enduring impact on the clinician’s life. This study may help clinician survivors recognize that they are not alone in their experience. This study may also assist new practitioners with understanding the occurrence of client suicide.