Research bites

To mark Suicide Prevention Day (10 September), this issue’s papers focus on recent research in counselling and psychotherapy with clients presenting with suicide risk.

PCT for suicide ideation

Little research has explored the effectiveness of person-centred therapy (PCT) in facilitating psychological growth among clients experiencing suicidal ideation and serious mental health difficulties. This study gathered survey data at five time points from 56 suicidal clients receiving 20 PCT sessions. Results showed improvements in measures of authenticity, wellbeing and psychological distress over 20 therapy sessions, with a minimum of 15 sessions being required to identify positive changes. Higher levels of authenticity and wellbeing early in therapy also predicted lower distress later in therapy. These findings refute the  view that PCT is only suitable for the ‘worried well’ and provides evidence that PCT is suitable for suicidal clients.

Read more: Sohal A, Murphy D. A longitudinal analysis of person-centred therapy with suicidal clients.

The therapeutic alliance and suicide ideation

Negative emotional responses from mental health clinicians towards clients presenting with suicide ideation have been related to negative treatment outcomes. In this study, the therapeutic alliance as a mediator of the relationship between clinicians’ negative emotional responses and clients’ suicidal ideation was examined. Self-report questionnaires were used to assess 61 clinicians’ emotional responses towards 378 clients; as well as clients’ and clinicians’ perceptions of the therapeutic alliance, and clients’ suicidal ideations. The study found that clinicians’ negative emotional responses were strongly associated with clients’ negative perceptions of the therapeutic alliance. Results showed that clients’ perception of the therapeutic alliance mediated the relation between clinicians’ emotional responses and clients’ suicidal ideation. This research suggests that awareness and management of clinicians’ emotional states enhance the therapeutic alliance and support better treatment outcomes for clients presenting with suicide risk.

Read more: Barzilay S et al. Associations between clinicians’ emotional responses, therapeutic alliance, and patient suicidal ideation.

Suicide risk among DRs

This investigation explored the mental health of doctoral researchers (DRs). In total, 1,263 DRs completed the suicide behaviour questionnaire and qualitatively described their experience of suicidality and its relationship with their PhDs. The findings revealed 59.7% of participants to be at no immediate risk of suicide and 40.3% to be at high risk. From the qualitative portion of the study, three themes were identified that captured the broad spectrum of experiences reported, from ‘fleeting’ thoughts of suicide to active attempts to end their lives, and how factors relating to doctoral study, and life outside of it, can increase or decrease suicidality. It was concluded that there is an ‘immediate need’ for universities to address suicidality among DRs.

Read more: Hazell CM et al. Understanding suicidality and reasons for living amongst doctoral researchers: a thematic analysis of qualitative U-DOC survey data.


In the spotlight 

'Our research found that therapy can facilitate men to find their own expression of masculinity'

Person-centred psychotherapists James Yates, Gabriel Muller-Ebeid and Tania Gessi trained at LC&CTA. They tell us about their research exploring links between aspects of masculine identity and suicidal ideation.

Can you tell us about your research?
We researched the experience of cis-male clients and the link between masculinity and suicidal ideation, which we felt is an underexplored topic. Informed by principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis, we investigated the pressures of masculinity as experienced by four participants before and after therapy, focusing on both biological as well as societal factors.

What motivated you to undertake this research?
We were motivated by various reasons for picking masculinity as a topic, such as overcoming our own prejudice of the phenomenon of masculinity and what that symbolises for us, as well as the importance to understand how and why men feel trapped by and attached to their own concept of masculinity. We found a strong link between the pressures of being a man in the 21st century and suicide, which we wanted to further explore in our own research.

What are the practice implications of your research?
We hope that our findings will bring awareness to the complex, diverse and multifaceted manifestation of masculinity and how it can be expressed in very different ways between different people. Our research found that therapy can facilitate men to find their own expression of masculinity without losing their identity. Awareness of a therapist’s own biases and views on masculinity is essential to prevent a potentially negative impact on the therapeutic process.

* In each issue a practitioner, postgraduate student or academic will tell us about how their research may inform therapeutic practice.