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Graduate training and the treatment of suicidal clients: The students' perspective

24 July 2001


Suicide is the 8th leacling cause of death in the United States (Murphy, 2000). According to current literature, almost all psychologists and other mental health professionals will treat a suicidal client at some point in their career. However, according to psychology program directors only 40% of graduate psychology programs are offering formal training in the management of suicidal clients to trainees (Bongar & Harmatz, 1991). Further, between 11 % and 54% of mental health trainees experience a client suicide (Courtenay & Stephens, 2001; Dewar, Eagles, Klein, Gray, & Alexander, 2000; Kleespies, Penk, & Forsyth, 1993; McAdams & Foster, 2000). The current investigation surveyed 238 predoctoral psychology interns nationally. Questions regarding formal training in managing suicidal clients, the prevalence rates of clients engaging in suicidal behaviors, and prevalence rates of clients who died by suicide were asked. The results of this survey indicated that only half of the participants attended programs where formal training in managing suicidal clients was offered. Approximately 5% of participants indicated a client suicide, and more over, 99% indicated that they had treated at least one suicidal client during their graduate training. These results suggest an increased need for formal training in managing suicidal clients in graduate psychology programs, especially those programs that are training their students to be clinicians.


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