Therapist Suicide

Therapist Suicide

Curt and Katie talk about a recent news story related to Dr. Gregory Eells, the Executive Director of the Counseling and Psychological Services at University of Pennsylvania, who died by suicide in September 2019. We talk about how the understanding of risk factors, the changing face of our profession, and calls for self-care are insufficient to address the mental health needs of mental health professionals.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

In this episode we talk about:

  • Therapist death by suicide
  • The life and work of Dr. Gregory Eells
  • The risk factors for therapist suicide: our own mental health concerns, highly challenging our work is, the changing work environments, burnout and isolation.
  • The insufficiency of “self-care” as a solution and what it infers about the mental health professionals who are unable to employ it
  • The systemic issues leading to poor mental health in the professionals
  • University counseling centers – the increasing percentage utilization, a look at how access and services have been affected
  • How new legislation that could improve the situation is still insufficient
  • A call for early intervention, comprehensive services
  • How caseloads are impacted by limiting services to clients with the highest level of need
  • Moral injury in addition to “burnout”
  • Suggested solutions for individuals and for systems
  • The importance of assessing capacity and need
  • What types of things to assess: (culture, demographics, etc.)
  • Getting creative, while assessing true capacity (time, energy, personnel, space, mental/emotional, sustainability of effort)
  • Tracking data related to work, the possibility of unions
  • Looking at productivity, services provided, funding, compliance with funder requirements, and reasonable metrics
  • Making decisions on whether you stay, how you make your work environment as healthy as you can, and working within the system while it slowly changes
  • The danger of hopelessness, the hope of re-igniting motivation and ambition
  • The importance of connecting as a community, supporting each other, calling out worrisome symptoms and unhealthy environments



– Curt and Katie

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links.

Your Tango Article: Head of UPenn’s Mental Health Services Dies By Suicide

Psychologist suicide: Incidence, impact, and suggestions for prevention, intervention, and postvention

Dr. Eells’ TEDx talk on Resilience

Center for Collegiate Mental Health, 2015 Annual Report

AUCCCD Survey 2018

Who helps the caregiver? Penn counselor’s suicide highlights how experts aren’t immune from struggles

It’s Not Burnout, It’s Moral Injury by Dr. Zubin Damania

Center for Collegiate Mental Health 2018 – Clinical Load Index

Penn Today: A Conversation with new CAPS Director Gregory Eells

Relevant Episodes:

The Burnout System

Addressing the Burnout System

All Kinds of Burned Out

Impaired Therapists

Connect with us!

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Get Notified About Therapy Reimagined 2020 (and TR2019 Virtual Conference)

Our consultation services:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapist’s Group


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

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