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On the last track, we discussed three aspects of addressing thoughts and feelings with a suicidal teen client. These three aspects are communicating feelings, separating thoughts and feelings, and active listening.
On this track, we will discuss a four step crisis intervention model for a suicidal teen client. The four steps in the crisis intervention model are to establish rapport, explore the problem, focus, and seek alternatives.
I first met Ben, 17, after he had attempted to hang himself. Ben ’s suicide note had stated that he could not stand being separated from his girlfriend of two years, Ally. Ally had been forced to move to another state when her father’s company transferred him.
Step #1 - Establish Rapport
As you are well aware, when a suicidal teen’s feelings are discussed and listened to with acceptance and respect, the sharpness, intensity, and overwhelming aspect of the teen client’s emotions are reduced. The issues behind the suicidal crisis become more clear, and the person in crisis can reason and problem solve more effectively. By helping Ben separate thoughts and feelings, I proved my understanding.
Step #2 - Explore the Problem
Ben stated, “My parents really wanted me to go to college after I graduated, but all I want is to marry Ally and get a job. When Ally told me she had to move, I started panicking. I didn’t know who to go to or what to do. I knew mom and dad wouldn’t understand, they wanted me to dump Ally anyway. I knew I was just going to get a job after school, so my grades dipped a lot. Mom and Dad didn’t understand, they blamed my relationship with Ally. They never understood how much I love Ally. The thought of losing her was just more than I could take.”
I stated, “You feel lost and hopeless because Ally is moving 1,000 miles away” in order to reflect both Ben’s feelings and his explanation of the events that precipitated his suicidal crisis.
Step #3 - Focus
Clearly, trying to solve all of these problems at once would be too overwhelming, and trying to handle all of Ben’s problems at once would be unproductive. With guidance, Ben chose to focus on dealing with Ally’s departure. Thus my focus as a therapist began helping Ben learn coping mechanisms for handling loss.
Step #4 - Seek Alternatives
Our discussion turned to Ben’s breakup with his previous girlfriend, and identifying the coping mechanisms he had used in that situation. Together we developed a step by step outline of what to do about his feelings about Ally’s move. I encouraged Ben to recognize that while suicide is always an available option, there are other options that can be explored first.
“Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Intervention” Technique
Think of your Ben. Would providing the Do’s and Don’ts technique to her or his support system strengthen the resources available to your suicidal teen client?
On this track, we have discussed a four step crisis intervention model for a suicidal teen client. The four steps in the crisis intervention model are to establish rapport, explore the problem, focus, and seek alternatives.
On the next track, we will discuss six risk factors for teen suicide. These six risk factors are abuse, childhood loss, school performance, personality traits, parental relationships, and family patterns
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