Psychotherapy Practice Mentor

The responsibility of treating a person in a suicidal state

For therapists, the responsibility of treating a person in a suicidal state can cause anxiety and apprehension – suicidal clients can even induce feelings of dislike or malice in their therapists. As helpers and healers, it’s easy for us to get caught up in trying to fix things. We get so caught up in making a difference, we start to experience countertransference and are unable to remain impartial without the right tools.

As a result, it is valuable to use an objective assessment instrument when evaluating a client’s risk. The Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) is a reliable and valid tool that can assess suicide potential by measuring where an individual is located along the continuum of self-critical thoughts and the intensity of those feelings. As always, your own intuition and assessment are essential, but I find it especially useful as it provides you with a plan of action for your client immediately.

As a result, it is valuable to use an objective assessment instrument when evaluating a client’s risk. The Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) is a reliable and valid tool that can assess suicide potential by measuring where an individual is located along the continuum of self-critical thoughts and the intensity of those feelings. As always, your own intuition and assessment are essential, but I find it especially useful as it provides you with a plan of action for your client immediately.

While some suicides are planned and others are more impulsive, all suicides have elements of both. That is why it is vital that we, as therapists, need to remain alert and aware of the many psychiatric and psychological risk factors for suicide. We need to act quickly and effectively within the space in time between planning and action.

With that said, at the end of the day we’re still human. It is immensely important that we, too, have our own network of mental health professionals we can rely on – our colleagues, our supervisors, and our own therapists. We need to make sure we’re objective and don’t let our feelings get in the way, and we can’t do that without support. Taking care of yourself is a necessity in a field where we are always caring for others. This is our opportunity to help a person who is in crisis, and we can’t let ourselves get in the way.

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