Suicide Intervention Skills: Graduate Training and Exposure to Suicide Among Psychology Trainees

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Abstract

Preparing psychology trainees to assess and to manage clients who are suicidal is a critical responsibility of graduate training programs. In this study, doctoral trainees in clinical psychology (N = 59) were surveyed on their exposure to training and supervision on suicide assessment, their exposure to bereavement by suicide, and their confidence in providing care to suicidal clients. The Suicide Intervention Response Inventory–Revised (SIRI-2) was utilized to assess participants’ suicide intervention skills. Results indicated that over 75% of trainees had received education on suicide during graduate school; however, few students reported receiving clinical supervision on this topic. Trainees with and without formal training scored similarly on the SIRI-2, though there was a trend toward more skillful responding among trainees with more clinical experience. Exposure to suicidal clients during clinical training was common, as was personal bereavement by suicide. Trainees who reported working with clients who endorsed suicidal ideation and/or a history of suicide attempts performed better on the SIRI-2 than students with no such experience. Although a higher proportion of graduate trainees endorsed education on suicide assessment and management than in past studies, these findings call into question the efficacy of current training curricula. Implications for training and supervision are discussed.

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