Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Marc S. Karver, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margaret Booth-Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tammy Allen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jack Darkes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vicky Phares, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent Small, Ph.D.


graduate, severity level, life-threatening behavior, judgment, education


It has been suggested that mental health professionals are insufficiently trained to assess and manage suicide risk (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense [USDVA/DOD], 2013; Goldsmith, Pellmar, Kleinman, & Burney, 2002; Jobes, Rudd, Overholser, & Joiner, 2008; Mirick, McCauley, Bridger, & Berkowitz, 2015; Silverman & Berman, 2014) and this problem may originate during graduate training (Feldman & Freedenthal, 2006; Mackelprang, Karle, Reighl, & Cash, 2014; Rudd, Cukrowicz, & Bryan, 2008; Schmitz et al., 2012). Unfortunately, however, this area has been inadequately studied (Battista, 2007; Cramer, Johnson, McLaughlin, Rausch, & Conroy, 2013; Department of Health and Human Services, 2012; Stuber & Quinnett, 2013), precluding a full understanding of this problem.

The present study surveyed clinical psychology doctoral students’ behavioral competency in responding to suicidal clients, attitudes toward suicide prevention, perceived ability to engage in appropriate practices, subjective norms surrounding SRA behaviors, intentions to engage in these behaviors, and the relationship of amount of graduate training in suicide risk assessment (SRA) core competencies to the aforementioned constructs. It was hypothesized that amount of training in SRA competencies would be significantly related to participants’ attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and subjective norms related to SRA behaviors. Further, it was hypothesized that the aforementioned variables would be significantly related to participant intentions to engage in these behaviors. Finally, it was hypothesized that intentions to engage in SRA behaviors would be positively related to participants’ behavioral competency in SRA. Study participants were 167 students from 46 clinical psychology doctoral programs. Hypotheses were tested using path analysis. Results provided partial support for significant relationships between attitudes, PBC, subjective norms, and intentions (Hypothesis 1a). Implications of this research include advancing the training practices of clinical psychology doctoral programs so as to help increase the number of mental health practitioners competent in suicide risk assessment and management practices.