Suicide Assessment, Intervention, and Coping:
Professional and Community Collaboration for Suicide Prevention
John Sommers-Flanagan, PhD
Professor of Counseling, University of Montana
Join 2021 ICA Conference KEYNOTE SPEAKER John Sommers-Flanagan for a skill-building workshop. Taking a strength-based approach, we will dispel old myths about suicide, while helping counselors create positive change in themselves, in their clients, and in their communities. Collaboration strategies, for working with clients and with community organizations, will be emphasized.
Suicidal ideation and death by suicide continue at very high rates across the United States. In Idaho suicide rates hit an all-time high in 2020. Although suicide rates are increased by a myriad of factors, some of which are unknowable, we do know that professional counselors play a key role in suicide assessment, intervention, and prevention; this role is more important than ever. In this workshop, participants will learn a holistic and strengths-based approach to suicide assessment and treatment. This approach includes a seven-dimensional model to facilitate treatment planning. Additionally, the strengths-based approach emphasizes that suicidal ideation is a natural human response to painful and distressing life situations, and encourages counselors to be accepting and nonjudgmental of clients, while also partnering with them for positive collaboration and planning. Professional counselors can contribute to community suicide prevention efforts and community prevention efforts can contribute to counseling caseloads. One, among many, methods for counselor-community collaboration occurs through community-wide continuing professional education, along with professional support groups for providers who consistently take on suicide referrals, and referral lists of professional counselors who have received training and are comfortable working with clients who are suicidal. In addition to providing counselors with a range of strengths-based assessment and intervention skills, we will also focus on helping counselors use nuanced and appropriate language for asking about suicide, talking about suicide with community stakeholders, and community postvention. Within the worlds of suicide intervention and prevention, there are many different models and approaches. What’s imperative is that counseling practitioners and community suicide prevention specialists partner together to offer a wide array of services to clients, families, schools, agencies, and other individuals and groups in need of education and support.
• Describe seven dimensions of a holistic model for suicide assessment and treatment planning
• Implement specific strengths-based assessment and intervention strategies
• Define the nature of collaboration, along with the attitude underlying collaborative relationships
• Identify three ways to connect and collaborate with community resources and members in preventing suicide