Counselling a client who is suicidal can be one of the most demanding and professionally challenging experiences for any counsellor. Balancing the needs and rights of the client against professional expectations and an appropriate management of confidentiality can be extremely difficult. Regardless of setting or client group, counsellors are likely to work with suicidal clients at some point in their career.
This video is a short extract from a 63 minute DVD aimed at Counsellors. The DVD is titled "Tightropes & Safety Nets - Counselling Suicidal Clients" and has been produced and directed by the Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Leicester - Professor Sue Wheeler, Dr. Andrew Reeves from University of Liverpool Counselling Service and Jon Shears, University of Leicester Multimedia Services.
The DVD that the clip comes from can be used either by individual counsellors who wish to explore their own personal and professional responses to suicide risk, or by training groups to prompt thought and debate around these difficult and sensitive issues. The vignettes presented in the DVD are drawn from casework, and developed in response to counselor feedback to help ensure they capture important professional dilemmas.
The DVD has four main menus: Perspectives on Suicide; Talking about Suicide with a Client; Assessing Suicide Risk; The Counsellors Process.
Menu One: Perspectives on Suicide
This section is divided into two parts. Part one provides an insight into an individuals experience of having been suicidal, and what they experienced as helpful and unhelpful at that time. Part two provides an insight into three counsellors experiences of working with suicidal clients; how suicide risk might present in sessions, responses to suicidal clients and the demands of being a counsellor when faced with this professional challenge.
Menu Two: Talking About Suicide with a Client
Research suggests that how we talk about suicide with our clients can profoundly shape both our understanding of their suicidal experience, and our ability to assess risk (Reeves et al., 2004). Additionally, the counsellors willingness to talk about suicide will either facilitate the clients potential to understand their own suicidal thoughts and therefore their capacity to support themselves through crisis, or hinder it. A counsellors session with their client Kieran demonstrates how important counsellor interventions are with suicidal clients.
Menu Three: Assessing Suicide Risk
Current approaches to suicide risk assessment emphasize the importance of understanding risk factors. Such factors might include age, gender and employment status for example. While some counsellors routinely include the use of risk assessment tools in their work with clients, (e.g. through questionnaires etc.), many do not. Counsellors need to be able to identify risk factors in their work with clients to help inform their assessment of suicide risk. A counsellors work with Josh and Anne demonstrates how suicide risk factors can be identified during a counselling session.
Menu Four: The Counsellors Process
An under researched aspect of working with suicidal clients is the influence of the counsellors own response to suicide potential. How counsellors hear suicidal thoughts, how they feel and what they think or believe will all significantly influence the therapeutic dialogue. Additionally, counsellors responses will not only shape the nature of what is talked about, but also potentially influence decisions such as whether to seek specialist assessment, or even whether to continue with counselling. Counsellor responses to their client work can be understood well through their use of supervision. Five supervision vignettes are presented, demonstrating five different ways in which counselors might be affected by their work with suicidal clients.
For more information about Counselling courses at the University of Leicester see; http://www.le.ac.uk/lifelonglearning/counselling/courses/index.html
The "Tightropes Safety Nets - Counselling Suicidal Clients" DVD is available now, see http://www.go.le.ac.uk/tightropes