Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Alan J. Hovestadt

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen E. Craig

Third Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves


suicide, clinician, worldview, assessment, process, experience


Using a qualitative research method, the researcher explored the lived experiences of 17 clinicians in southwest Michigan who assess the risk of their clients committing suicide as a part of their professional practice. A phenomenological approach was used to interpret and understand the results. In-person interviews were conducted at a place chosen by the participant. Four broad interview questions with several subquestions within each created a semi-structured format. The questions explored the way clinicians assess suicide, the professional impact of suicide assessment, the personal impact of suicide assessment, and any changes in participants’ worldview as a result of suicide assessment. There was a consensus among participants that some questions must be asked to complete a suicide assessment. Participants’ emotional responses included feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger during the assessment process. Participants with the most experience reported less emotional discomfort during the suicide assessment process than was reported by less experienced participants. Scheduling disruptions in clinicians’ professional practice was widely reported. Several participants disagreed with the act of committing suicide personally, though all of them recognized suicide as an option open to everyone. Counteracting client’s suicidal ideation, many participants suggested exploring ways to resolve the problems in the client’s life that lead to suicidal ideation. This is offered to the client as a means of offering hope to them. Widely reported was a criticism of participants’ educational background, which lacked specific training about suicide assessment. Cynicism, which was anticipated at the onset of the research, was not reported. It appeared that participants self-selected to remain in the crisis intervention field and were optimistic about their ability to offer help to their clients.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access