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A qualitative investigation into the determinants of perceived stress by intern clinical/counselling psychologists in consultation with a non-fatal suicidal client.

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Aim: This study aims to investigate the experience of stress and the factors that impact on the intern psychologist in relation to first consultation with a non-fatal suicidal client. Intra and interpersonal factors, as well as institutional/environmental factors that influence/impact on intern clinical/counselling psychologist level of stress when assessing and managing a non-fatal suicidal client were identified. Methodology: The research methodology chosen for this study is based on the aim of the study, which is to investigate the experience of stress perceived by intern clinical/counselling psychologists in relation to consultation with a non-fatal suicidal client. A qualitative methodological approach will be used in this study as it allows for greater in-depth investigation and understanding of the experiences of intern clinical/counselling psychologists towards suicidal clients than would be generated by quantitative research methods. Five intern clinical/counseling psychologists were used in this qualitative study. They were interviewed using a semi-structured in- depth interview. The data was transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: A variety of stressors were identified by the interns, but the majority described common variables. The main sources of stress for the interns was first contact with suicidal clients and lack of practical training and experience. The working environment, which included work load, administrative work and academic and competency based requirements, was also deemed stressful. In terms of personal stress, interns reported family and friends to be a source of stress at times. Personality also contributed to the interns levels of stress. Socio-cultural factors which impacted on the interns experience of stress in relation to consultation with non-fatal suicidal clients included, language difficulties and cultural differences. Recommendations: The internship was generally described as stressful. Recommendations included more practical experience and training prior to the commencement of the internship. This will equip interns with the skills and abilities necessary in successfully assessing and managing high risk clients. Organisational and professional factors can also be modified and include support as well as an understanding of the policies and procedures of the institution in which the internship is being done.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2007.