Psychotherapy with Suicidal People: Some Common Factors with Attempters
Pp. 128-142 (15)
Antoon A. Leenaars
The villain for the would-be suicide attempter is pain; clinicians need something to fight that
pain, an anodyne. Psychotherapy is such; yet, to assuage the pain, the clinician primarily needs to know
what he/she is treating. This paper, thus, first offers an empirical, cross-cultural perspective on that
‘what,’ illustrated with the writings of William Styron. It is argued once one understands what we are
treating, effective psychotherapy comes naturally. An outline of some common factors (or
commonalities) in the field of psychotherapy with suicidal people is presented. The most essential
common factor is the therapeutic relationship. What is effective and what is lethal are outlined,
concluding that to treat the suicidal attempter effectively, the clinician has to be person-centred, not
mental disorder centred. He/she has to know whom he/she is treating; this is quality care.
Psychotherapy, suicide, prevention, psychological pain.
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