Junior Clinical Psychologists' Experience of Processing the Death of a Therapy Client, From a Cause Other Than Suicide: A Qualitative Study
Aim: According to the existing evidence-base, the experience of the death of a therapy client (from a cause other than suicide) for Clinical Psychologists is substantially under researched. Moreover, previous studies into the experience of patient or client death for healthcare professionals indicate this may be an important focus for research. The present study aimed to explore the often unheard, lived experiences of client death for Clinical Psychologists at the beginning of their career. It was hoped that these research findings may assist training courses, clinical supervisors and other Psychologists of all grades to make sense of this experience in greater depth. Method: A qualitative approach was adopted for this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine female junior Clinical Psychologists (Trainee, Newly Qualified) who had experienced the death of a client. The accounts were analysed using IPA, which attempts to illuminate the lived experience of a phenomenon for small samples of individuals. Results: The analytic procedure highlighted three main themes as emerging from participants’ accounts in the context of their client’s death: Connected and affected: Being unprepared for initial reactions to the client's death; "we do it so why can't you?" facing institutional denial and avoidance; "It's not something I've forgotten about", The lasting impact of client death: Learning reluctant lessons and experiencing continuing bonds. Implications: This study highlights the importance of recognising the impact of client death on Clinical Psychologists in particular, and healthcare professionals in general. Client death, by all causes, appears much overlooked within the current research base, which may have led to a self-perpetuating cycle of hidden and unspoken stories. The findings indicate death needs to be on the research and teaching agenda within the institution of Clinical Psychology. As a result we may be able to begin to break the current cycle of silence which has served to potentially disservice us as professionals, our teams and most importantly our clients.