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.

Psychological Autopsy Certification Training

Program Information
Please read the program information for specific details on the training.

2022 Training Dates

Schedule coming soon

Certification Training Course:
Training program in the psychological autopsy leading to certification as a Certified Psychological Autopsy Investigator (at an additional cost)

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.

Please contact 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

“This course has been a wonderful experience and has given me the tools to provide this required service to the jail, and educate my staff on suicide risk. Those at highest risk are often not the ones they think are at highest risk!” 

Kimberly Warneke, M.D., Medical Director, Mental Health Services

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 Virtual Training:
If your organization or group of organizations would like to arrange a virtual training session; please contact, to discuss potential dates and costs.

Continuing Education Credits

CE credits may be earned for successful completion of the workshop component of the certification. Participants can earn 8.5 credits.

ACCREDITATION: This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of University of Utah and American Association of Suicidology. The University of Utah is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

AMA Credit: The University of Utah School of Medicine designates this live activity for a maximum of 8.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure: None of the faculty or planners or anyone in control of content for this continuing medical education activity have any relevant financial relationships since the content does not cover any products/services of a commercial interest; therefore, there are no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Nondiscrimination and Disability Accommodation Statement: The University of Utah does not exclude, deny benefits to or otherwise discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, veteran’s status, religion, gender identity/expression, genetic information, or sexual orientation in admission to or participation in its programs and activities.  Reasonable accommodations will be provided to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request, with reasonable notice.  Requests for accommodations or inquiries or complaints about University nondiscrimination and disability/access policies may be directed to the Director, OEO/AA, Title IX/Section 504/ADA Coordinator, 201 S President’s Circle, RM 135, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, 801-581-8365 (Voice/TTY), 801-585-5746 (Fax).

Social Worker Credits: This program is Approved by the National Association of Social Workers (Approval # 886455354-7264) for 8.5 continuing education contact hours.

Certified Counselors: American Association of Suicidology has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 5607. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. AAS is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

Psychologists: The American Association of Suicidology is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. AAS maintains responsibility for the program and its content.