Date of Paper/Work
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.
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Harris, Elizabeth, "The Empty Chair: One Client’s Experience of the Death of Her Therapist" (2021). Professional Psychology Dissertations 2015-. 75.