Working with suicidality
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Impact of suicidality and completed suicides

Clinicians’ Experience of working with suicidality

( Coping with Self-Destructive Forces, 2011 – A Doctoral Research)

 

ABSTRACT 

 

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.

 

REFERENCE

Wolfart, G. (2011). Coping with Self-Destructive Forces, pp. 41-199. Doctoral Dissertation. City University. Google Scholar.

 

 

RESEARCHER BACKGROUND

Dr Gislene Wolfart is the Lead Psychologist at Oxford Mind & Body. In her clinical practice she specializes in eating disorders and its comorbidities.

 

Eons ago, prior to her doctoral training, Gislene volunteered at Maytree, a respite centre for the suicidal, and subsequently worked as a nursing assistant at a females only forensic psychiatric ward. These experiences highlighted the impact of suicidality on professionals, which according to Hales lies on a continuum with completed suicides at one end of the spectrum. This became a topic of interest and later the subject of her doctoral thesis investigating psychologists and psychiatrists’ experiences of working with suicidality.

 

Gislene’s doctoral research findings were shared in workshops approved by the British Psychological Society (BPS) Learning Centre and delivered at BPS’s London Office for the purpose of Continuous Professional-Development (CPD). These workshops are now delivered via Oxford Mind & Body.

 

In addition to her clinical work, Gislene is currently part of a working group based in Oxford investigating the impact of suicide on professionals and developing resources for those affected.

 

 

FURTHER RESOURCES

If a patient dies by suicide: A resource for psychiatrists

 

Gibbons, R., Brand, F., Carbonnier, A., Croft, A., Lascelles, K., Wolfart, G., & Hawton, K. (2019). Effects of patient suicide on psychiatrists: Survey of experiences and support required. BJPsych Bulletin, 43(5), 236-241. doi:10.1192/bjb.2019.26

 

Working with suicidal patients: A reflective workshop

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