Paradise Lost: When Clients Commit Suicide

Paradise Lost: When Clients Commit Suicide

by Marian Joyce*

A psychologist describes the trauma of losing a patient to suicide.

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“May I speak to Becky, please?” I asked the female voice that had answered the phone.

“Who’s calling?”

“Dr. Joyce,” I replied.

“Her therapist?” she asked. I knew I had to protect my client’s confidentiality, so I couldn’t answer that question. I began to feel uneasy.

“I’m sorry," she said softly. "Becky killed herself last night.”
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Dr. Marian Joyce* is a psychologist and writer in San Diego, Ca. She has been in private practice for twenty years working mainly with adults who have depression and anxiety. After a client committed suicide, Dr. Joyce was devastated and experienced doubt about her ability as a therapist. She is happy to say that she pulled through this dark time, but she often felt alone with her grief. She hopes her story will help other therapists to understand what it is like to lose a client and other clinician survivors to know that they are not alone.

*Dr. Joyce is a pseudonym.
Thank you so much, this is comforting and validating. I appreciate your willingness to share your experience so that others of us can know we are not alone in going through all the complicated emotions of such profound losses.
I just lost a client to suicide. I am devastated and searching for support. Thank you for writing this.
As a therapist going through the similar situation, I can really relate to what you wrote about your feelings - feeling sad, fearful, doubtful, and much more. Thank you for posting this honest and personal story.
thank you for this article - it helped a lot!
Thank you. I am being going through a similar situation and it is dreadful. Your post helped.
Thanks for taking the time to share this. I found the article through an online search for "my client attempted suicide" after a 15 year old girl I had seen only for the intake appointment overdosed just 5 days later. Reading the article helped me sort through my responsibility in this situation, and offered some guidance in terms of moving forward in my practice as I encounter potentially suicidal clients.. Thanks...
This article was just what I needed to read. I too work in healthcare and was recently told a patient comitted suicide at home a week after beig discharged. Kept replaying it all in my head and thinking about them. This post helps me sort through my feelings. Thank you for writin so candidly and for helping others who deal with this same hardship.
This is a moving and straight-foward, personal view into this topic. Thank you.
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Learn about the legal implications of a client's suicide.
  • Describe the reactions and feelings that are likely to arise for therapists after a client's suicide.
  • Outline possible precautions for therapists to take to alleviate risks around lawsuits.
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