Helping a Hesitant Client Share Suicidal Ideation

Mar 09, 2017

“Time gives all and takes all away; everything changes,but nothing perishes.”

Giordano Bruno
Renaissance philosopher and mystic

Helping a Hesitant Client Share Suicidal Ideation

TISA Description of the Problem: Once the topic of suicide has been raised in an interview, some clients will clearly appear to be hesitant to openly share their ideation. For some clients this hesitancy is tied into stigmatization and shame. In the following excellent interviewing tip from Victoria L. Morgan, LPC, Victoria describes an approach that attempts to reduce this shame directly.

Tip: If I feel that a patient’s hesitancy to share his or her suicidal ideation is primarily related to shame, I have found the following simple statement to be reassuring:

“Many people who are feeling depressed find themselves having thoughts of suicide. It is very common. And I know that just because you have had thoughts of suicide that it doesn’t mean that you intend to do it. I’m just hoping you can help me better understand your pain.”

TISA Follow-up: I really like the simplicity and directness of this interviewing tip. I believe it addresses a common fear of clients that the clinician is immediately assuming that they are dangerous and about “to act” on their suicidal ideation. Such clients often fear that they will be locked-up for just mentioning suicide. In addition it directly relieves clients of the fear that they are “odd” or “crazy” for having suicidal thoughts. I have nothing to add to Victoria’s tip, other than I recommend using it, if shame appears to be undermining communciation.

Tip provided by:

Victoria L. Morgan, LPC

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Of preventing suicide and teaching clinical interviewing