Psychology, Professional

Date of Paper/Work

Fall 9-23-2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Lenny Jennings, Jean Birbilis, Debra Broderick


Therapist mortality is largely neglected throughout professional literature and discourse; conversations that have taken place in either forum have traditionally privileged the perspective of the clinician, leaving the bereaved client unseen and unheard. The current investigation sought not only to call awareness to the important yet overlooked subject of therapist mortality but, more so, to carefully examine the client’s experience of such a phenomenon, thereby breaking their imposed silence and amplifying their voice. To do so, this study used autoethnography to explore the lived and felt experiences of the researcher through the terminal illness and following the death of her long-term therapist. Data for the study were gathered in the form of a first- person, written narrative from the time of the clinician’s diagnosis to present day. Six main themes emerged from the data (of which four were comprised of several distinct subthemes), including Uncertainty & Ambiguity, Intuition, “Kaleidoscope of Emotions,” Loneliness, Humanity, and Healing. These themes are discussed, and implications for research and practice are reviewed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.