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Sep 23, 2019

An interview with Debi Frankle, LMFT on how therapists can navigate when clients die. We look at what to do when clients die by suicide, die based on high risk lifestyles, or long-term illnesses. We also talk about the complicated emotions that therapists face in this isolated grief.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. We are human beings who can now present ourselves as whole people, with authenticity, purpose, and connection. Especially now, when therapists must develop a personal brand to market their practices.

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.

Interview with Debi Frankle, LMFT

Debi Jenkins Frankle is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Grief Specialist and Trainer. Debi has been working with grievers for over 25 years. She and husband, Mark Frankle LMFT, are the co-founders of the Calabasas Counseling and Grief Recovery Center. Debi is the founder of Private Practice Grief Workshops and Trainings for Mental Health Professionals as well as the FB group for therapists: Private Practice Grief.

Debi’s areas of expertise are grief and trauma. Debi has led trainings for grief counseling professionals throughout the United States and Canada. Debi is a past president of San Fernando Valley chapter of CAMFT, past committee co-chair of the Crisis Response Network for SFV CAMFT and a member of the Association for Death Education (ADEC).

In her spare time, she plays in dirt and hangs out with dogs (and her husband too!).

In this episode we talk about:

  • How therapists can handle when a client dies by suicide
  • Legal and logistical considerations
  • The importance of grounding yourself and seeking out consultation with a trusted colleague
  • The stigma leading to therapists avoiding disclosing when clients die by suicide
  • Considerations in contacting the family of the client and how to handle the conversation
  • The complicated emotions that therapists can face as professionals and as grievers
  • Deciding to go to the funeral
  • The isolated grief that therapists face
  • How grief can be different when a client dies by something preventable, or something they caused - disenfranchised grief or discounted grief
  • The uniqueness of the therapist’s response
  • The different types of losses and the reactions we have to them
  • The emotional reactions that therapists should allow in treatment (and should not allow)
  • The importance of doing your own work regarding your own losses
  • How therapists can defer the conversations in treatment away from the necessary grief work
  • How to manage the rest of the caseload when you’ve experienced a personal loss or a client has died
  • The modeling we can do for our clients
  • What happens when your therapy dog dies and how to manage that with your clients
  • The work we need to do to be better at working with grief overall


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Relevant Resources:

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

Private Practice Grief Facebook Group


Relevant Episodes:

Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW: Death, Dying, and Grief


Connect with us:

The Modern Therapists Group on Facebook

Therapy Reimagined 2019

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 about Curt 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 about Katie 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:


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano