Developed in 1960 by AAS’s founding president, Dr. Edwin Shneidman, as well as Robert Littman, MD, and Norman Farborow, PhD, and refined over the years since, the psychological autopsy has become a best practice postmortem procedure to reconstruct the proximate and distal causes of an individual’s death by suicide or to ascertain the most likely manner of death where that manner of death is equivocal and left undetermined by a medical examiner or coroner. The psychological autopsy, furthermore, helps promote understandings to the often-asked “why?” question raised by survivors regarding the suicide of their loved one, is used in case-control research studies to better ascertain risk factors for suicide, and helps to answer questions of causation in both individual cases (e.g. where negligence may be alleged) or suicide and interconnections between cases (as in clusters of suicides), hence lessons learned to inform prevention efforts.

Next Training:

Just announced! The next training will take place on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, hosted by the National Suicidology Training Center.

Certification Training Course:
One-day, face-to-face training program in the psychological autopsy leading to certification as a Certified Psychological Autopsy Investigator

Learning Objectives:
Upon completion of this training, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the history and purposes of the psychological autopsy as a postmortem investigatory tool.
  • Identify the procedures used in the conduct of a psychological autopsy investigation.
  • Utilize the psychological autopsy interview protocol and associated procedures to conduct a psychological autopsy interview.
  • Analyze psychological autopsy reports to understand how and why an individual died in the manner they did.
  • Formulate suicidal risk level on sample cases.

How to Apply

Please read the program information for details before applying. A CV or resume is required with this application. Click here to apply. Registration deadline – November 15, 2019. Please contact Jennifer Tinch with questions.

Registrants certified through the AAS Psychological Autopsy Certification Program may, thereafter, list their certification from AAS as a credential that offers assurance to potential contractors and employers that one has demonstrated training and expertise in the use of this procedure. Certified individuals will be offered inclusion in an AAS roster of certified psychological autopsy investigators, hence may be offered opportunity to conduct psychological autopsy investigations at registrant-designated fees on AAS psychological autopsy projects.

“As a Medicolegal Death Investigator, I am responsible for obtaining information that is critical in determining the cause and manner of death.  An understanding of the principles of the “Psychological Autopsy” can be invaluable. The training provided by the American Association of Suicidology gives an investigator scientifically based methods to that end and adds validity to the investigational conclusions.” Brett Harding, Assistant Coroner for the Clark County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office, Las Vegas, Nevada

“In the wake of suicide and murder-suicide death in South Africa, the psychological autopsy can be the most important and effective tool for gathering information on suicide or murder-suicide death and providing answers on often asked – why?, why now? and why in this way.” Elelwani Muthivhi, Registered Counselor, and Researcher, Limpopo Department of Community Safety, South Africa

Management of Certification:
Initial certification is good for three years. A fee of $100 is charged each year to maintain certification.

In order to remain in good standing for the fourth through sixth years, a certified Psychological Autopsy Investigator (PAI) must submit a second case within the first three-year period of certification. Once this is approved, the certification is good for a second three-year period.

During the second three-year period, a PAI must submit a cased to be renewed for five more years. Thereafter, PAIs must submit a case every five years.

More Information:
Registrants must possess a minimum of a Masters degree in a social sciences/behavioral health field OR current employment consistent with the opportunity to conduct psychological autopsies.

Group Training:
If your organization or group of organizations would like to arrange a training session at your location; please contact Jennifer Tinch, to discuss potential dates and costs.