ACT for Suicidal Behavior

ACT for Suicidal Behavior

Empower Clients to Change Their Relationships with Pain and Pivot Toward Life

CE Hours available

One of the most challenging experiences for most therapists is working with suicidal thoughts and behavior in the clinical setting. As clinicians who care deeply for clients, it is understandable that the possibility of a client’s suicide would stir a number of complex emotions ranging from fear to anger to helplessness. An overwhelming urge to save clients who have suicidal thoughts and behaviors can arise. The complexity of these experiences can be intensified by local laws and expectations of employers, as well as by family members and friends who wish the behavior to stop. Reducing the fear and anxieties concerning suicidal behavior may emerge as the top priority instead of recognizing the human suffering that might lead someone to this dire measure. Flexibility in approaching suicidal behavior can suffer as therapists orient to factors that involve calculating and assessing risk and considering hospitalization. The issue of suicide can challenge otherwise collaborative therapeutic relationships. When clinicians are compelled to force clients to choose life, it places them at odds with clients who view suicide as a potential solution to their suffering. Yet, we need to respond. It is estimated that every year more than a million people attempt suicide and, at least for a moment, concluding that death is preferable to life. However, through ACT, we can join with clients in an open and engaged collaboration about the many ways to choose life, even in the presence of pain.

Regardless of the presenting problem or treatment setting, clinicians using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can empower themselves to approach suicidal behavior so that interventions are no longer driven by fear. Opening up to personal experience, holding fears, and being present to the client and their pain, can be a values-based approach chosen by the therapist. By uncovering the function of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, therapists can discover why the thoughts and behaviors persist and support clients in developing alternative means to reduce suffering and cope. Moreover, therapists can empower their clients to pivot toward life, fostering vitality by supporting clients in building ever larger and more flexible repertoires of values-consistent behaviors.

In this training, therapists will explore their beliefs and barriers to working effectively with clients considering suicide. Exercises and role-plays designed to assist the therapist in approaching suicidal behavior from an ACT-consistent perspective will be presented. Attendees will also learn how to functionally assess suicidal thoughts and behaviors, enabling them to join with clients in understanding their turn toward suicide as a search for a solution to their suffering while also offering an alternative that recognizes their humanity and fosters engagement in life. ACT based suicide risk assessment and safety planning to survive a suicidal crisis will be explored – while still working to empower long-term change promoting meaningful living. Case examples of clients considering death will illustrate special considerations for creative hopelessness work and engagement of each of the six core processes of ACT. We hope this training will bring depth and flexibility to your repertoire in using ACT to work with high–risk clients, empowering you to approach issues related to the loss of life by suicide and helping you accept the limits of your influence on your clients.

This training is worth 8 CE credit hours if attended live. While we can only provide CE to those who are present – i.e. logged in – for live presentation(s), all Praxis webinars are recorded for later viewing. Registrants may then access these recordings at any time for up to nine months from the conclusion of the training to which they pertain.

Prior to registering, please review speaker-planner conflict of interest disclosures and complete CE information.

Session 1: October 6, 2023, 4 pm-6 pm EDT
Exploring Your Relationship to Suicide & Client’s Considering Suicide
ACT from the Inside Out in the Face of Suicide

Session 2: October 13, 2023, 4 pm-6 pm EDT
Suicide from a Contextual Behavioral Perspective
Safety Planning from an ACT Perspective

Session 3: October 20, 2023, 4 pm-6 pm EDT
Joining with and Inspiring Change in Clients at Risk of Suicide
Engaging Mindfulness Processes to Hold Suicide-Related Psychological Pain

Session 4: October 27, 2023, 4 pm-6 pm EDT
Values Construction & Committed Actions to Build Reasons for Living
What to Do When a Client Takes Their Own Life and Moving Forward

Participants will be able to:

  1. Identify personal and systemic barriers to working collaboratively with clients to effectively manage suicide risk.
  2. Explain the phenomenon of suicide from a contextual behavioral perspective.
  3. Discuss empirical support for using ACT with clients at risk of suicide.
  4. Create an ACT consistent safety plan to cope during suicidal crises.
  5. Use functional suicide risk assessment for case conceptualization and treatment planning.
  6. Describe how to use creative hopelessness work appropriate for a client at high risk of suicide.
  7. Describe how to help clients clarify and pursue their values in the presence of psychological pain and use committed action work to build vital lives clients will choose to live.

Please review complete CE and conflict-of-interest disclosure information prior to registering. This live online course is sponsored by Praxis Continuing Education and Training and is approved for 8 CE Hours by the following listed below. There was no commercial support for this activity. None of the planners or presenters for this educational activity have relevant financial relationship(s) to disclose with ineligible companies whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.

Praxis CET maintains responsibility for the program with the CE approvals outlined below:

Joint Accreditation: In support of improving patient care, Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.

IPCE: This activity was planned by and for the healthcare team, and learners will receive 8 Interprofessional Continuing Education (IPCE) credit for learning and change.

Nursing: Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc designates this activity for a maximum of 8 ANCC contact hours.

Physicians: Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc designates this live activity for a maximum of 8 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Psychologists: Continuing Education (CE) credits for psychologists are provided through the co-sponsorship of the American Psychological Association (APA) Office of Continuing Education in Psychology (CEP). The APA CEP Office maintains responsibly for the content of the programs.

Social Workers: As a Jointly Accredited Organization, Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc. is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved under this program. Regulatory boards are the final authority on courses accepted for continuing education credit. Social workers completing this course receive 8 clinical continuing education credits.

Drug and Alcohol Counselors: This course has been approved by Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc, as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for 8 CE hours. NAADAC Provider #165310, Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc, is responsible for all aspects of its programming.

National Counselors: Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc. has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6759. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc. is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

NY Social Workers: Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0467

NY Counselors: Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc. is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors. #MHC-0198.

NY Psychologists: Praxis Continuing Education and Training, Inc. is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Psychology as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed psychologists #PSY-0002.

NOTE: Many state boards accept offerings accredited by national or other state organizations. If your state is not listed, please check with your professional licensing board to determine whether the accreditations listed are accepted.

This training is for mental health professionals and/or trainees with some previous exposure and experience with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It will not include an introduction to ACT, but will be appropriate for a variety of attendees with knowledge ranging from beginner to advanced.
All levels of mental health professionals

Barnes, S. M., Borges, L. M., Smith, G. P., Walser, R. D., Forster, J. E., & Bahraini, N. H. (2021). Acceptance and commitment therapy to promote recovery from suicidal crises: A randomized controlled acceptability and feasibility trial of ACT for life. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 20, 35-45.

Barnes, S. M., Borges, L. M., Sorensen, D., Smith, G. P., Bahraini, N. H., & Walser, R. D. (2022). Safety Planning Within Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 30(1), 55-63.

Borges, L. M., Barnes, S. M., Farnsworth, J. K., Drescher, K. D., & Walser, R. D. (2022). Case conceptualizing in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Moral Injury (ACT-MI): An active and ongoing approach to understanding and intervening on moral injury. Frontiers in Psychiatry doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.910414

Hayes, S. C., Pistorello, J., & Biglan, A. (2008). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Model, data, and extension to the prevention of suicide. Brazilian Journal of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy, 10, 81-102 doi: 10.31505/rbtcc.v10i1.329

Strosahl, K. D. (2004). ACT with the multi-problem patient. A practical guide to acceptance and commitment therapy, 209-245.

Tighe, J., Nicholas, J., Shand, F., & Christensen, H. (2018). Efficacy of acceptance and commitment therapy in reducing suicidal ideation and deliberate self-harm: systematic review. JMIR mental health, 5(2), e10732.

Walser, R. D., Garvert, D. W., Karlin, B. E., Trockel, M., Ryu, D. M., & Taylor, C. B. (2015). Effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in treating depression and suicidal ideation in Veterans. Behaviour research and therapy, 74, 25-31.

Weinstein, J. H., Kroska, E. B., & Walser, R. D. (2021). The empowerment plan: Enhancing the safety plan with a CBS approach to repertoire expansion. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 20, 101-107.

We understand, sometimes things come up!

Praxis will offer a full refund to registrants of both live and live-online trainings who cancel their registration up to 14 days before the course or workshop start date, minus an administrative processing fee of $30 for a 2-day workshop or online course, and a $50 fee for a 4-day workshop. If cancelled within 14 days, no refund will be issued, however, a credit for the same amount will be applied toward another learning product, which expires within 1 year. Please contact us at to cancel a registration.