Encounters with Suicide

Encounters with Suicide: Unconscious Dynamics and their Impact on the Psychotherapist

Saturday 21 March 2020 - Dublin

With speakers Dr Cathal Morgan, Heather Moore, Maria McGrane and Linda Hanlon

As early as the late 1890s, Freud reported his own suppression of feelings after his patient’s suicide; for many years the suicide of a patient has been seen as the “therapist’s failure”. More recently, the death of a client by suicide – or suicidal threat – is more acknowledged as a traumatic experience for the therapist but this phenomenon is still very much avoided and underestimated in the literature.




Registration and coffee

Dr Cathal Morgan
Veronica Decides to Live: Father-Daughter Relationships Represented in Life and Death Matters
This presentation will present the case of Veronica, a 39-year-old woman who has struggled with a lifetime of traumatic events and been the subject of brutal forms of institutionalisation for the best part of her life. Yet despite what appears like an incessant and compulsive desire to die, Veronica creates for herself a number of anchor points imagined through the lives of others. As expressed through her lived experience, suicidal behaviour is, perhaps, a common and complex presentation encountered within therapeutic settings. How we listen, comprehend and respond to these serious life experiences as therapists, can and should make a difference. However, in the therapeutic encounter we should be concerned about the “how” and “what” we listen for that makes this difference. This paper will utilise some useful psychoanalytic theories and concepts in order to shed light on the dynamic of suicidal behaviour. Crucially, it will offer perspectives on the management of the therapeutic relationship and the impact that these encounters can have on the therapist.

Coffee break

Heather Moore
“A Terrible Beauty is Born”: The Impact on Practitioners of Working in the Area of Suicide Prevention
Emerging research from person-centred and psychodynamic traditions in the past twenty years has examined the traumatic dimension of suicidal behaviour on clinicians. This presentation will discuss the impact of suicidality on Irish psychotherapists based on research undertaken by Heather Moore. The title of the paper, from a poem by W.B. Yeats, encapsulates the reality for seven Irish therapists who participated in the research. Her presentation will demonstrate particularly the sublimation of personal melancholia by the practitioners.


Maria McGrane
The Insulating Capacity of a Clinical Supervision Group
This presentation will explore the unconscious transference and countertransferential impact on the psyche of therapists working in frontline trauma agencies, and the role of supervision to help defend against the emergence of the schizoid state and the impact of vicarious traumatisation. These dynamics most obviously manifest in high levels of staff turnover, somatic and psychosomatic and stress related illnesses, staff absenteeism, symptoms of PTSD, addiction, and depression. From an organisational perspective, the group dynamics might take the form of bullying, scapegoating, or being overwhelmed by the projective identification of very primitive feelings resulting in the emergence of the schizoid state within the team. Maria will explore how group supervision has the potential to insulate clinicians against primitive acting out in professional therapeutic settings.


Group Work and Discussion Facilitated by Maria McGrane and Linda Hanlon



Handouts and lunch included


Self-funded x 2:



Certificates of attendance for 5 hours will be provided at the event


Museum of Decorative Arts
Collins Barracks
Benburb St
D07 XKV4



09.30 Registration and coffee
10:00 Start
11:15 Coffee
13:00 Lunch break
15:15 Tea
17:00 End


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