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From The CriticsReviewer: Christopher J Graver, PhD, ABPP-CN(Madigan Healthcare System)
Description: Ask any psychologist what the greatest risk for injury or loss of life in a mental health patient is, and the answer will inevitably be suicide attempts. This is a critical area in the care of patients with mental illness and often commands the full attention of workshops, continuing education, and student training. This book consolidates that information into a written format for use by clinicians and trainees.
Purpose: Although clinicians may find sporadic seminars, CEs, or workshops on treating suicidal patients, this book brings together a cognitive conceptualization of suicide, an empirical review of the literature on suicide, and a protocol for treating these patients.
Audience: The target audience is quite obviously any mental health professional, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and paraprofessionals in the field. Students of these disciplines will also be interested in the book. It is edited by well respected clinicians and researchers.
Features: The book begins with an introduction to the nomenclature and ways of classifying suicide in terms of intent and lethality. Next is an in-depth review of the risk factors associated with suicide, including demographics, psychiatric history, psychological variables, and protective factors. Several theories of suicide are discussed and the importance of dysfunctional attitudes, hopelessness, and impulsivity is integrated into this theoretical construct. A chapter on the empirical support for a wide range of treatment options for suicide completes the first section. Each of these chapters has an overview and summary section that make for a coherent package. Chapter 5 seems to be wasted space, providing as it does an incredibly brief overview of general cognitive therapy, which readers should already be familiar with. The subsequent chapters more specifically devoted to suicide, however, are outstanding. They include case examples, sample scripts, and assessment instruments to monitor and track suicidal ideation and warning signs. There also is an entire chapter devoted to figuring out the timeline and features associated with a suicide attempt in an effort to better characterize, treat, and abort future attempts. The next two chapters flow nicely from this effort with instructions on evaluating core beliefs and preventing relapse. Furthermore, the special issue of suicide attempts in patients with comorbid substance abuse receives attention, as does prevention of attempts. The references are up to date and the index is reasonable.
Assessment: Therapists and students familiar with cognitive therapy will find this book an indispensable adjunct for working with suicidal patients. Not only is the review of the literature worthwhile, the step-by-step protocol for working with these patients is an essential tool in any therapist's repertoire.