Young & Lester: Gestalt Therapy Approaches to Crisis Intervention with Suicidal Patients

This article explains the use of Gestalt Therapy for crisis intervention with patients who are suicidal. The article by Young & Lester (2001) , provides for good information on the topic. I shall list the following points presented by the authors.

Gestalt therapy is an ideal method for dealing with crisis situations. This is because of the methods focus on the here-and-now and being present for the patient. Working with suicidal patients in crisis, being empathic and listening is everything. Accounts from patients in dire situations are filled with expressions of loneliness and helplessness. Hence being with someone who is actively listening without judgement is precious.

Read also : suicide crisis intervention: working with …

Steps involved in working with patients who are dangerously suicidal involve:

  1. Acknowledge of the suicidal ideation. To offer a listening ear and accepting that the client is in distress and has in mind to take his/her own life.
  2. Exploration of the suicide plan. This means talking openly with the patient about details of his/her ideas of the suicide wish.
  3. Exploring feelings of anger and sadness underlying. When we work through these feelings more emotions are discovered, and these include helplessness, shame and hopelessness.
  4. Bringing to the patient’s awareness that a part of him/her still wants to live. Brining to light this ambivalence is an important step that could radically diminish the wish for suicide.
  5. Giving voice to the patients psychological struggle. Giving a listening ear to the patient’s psychological difficulties frees the person of the guilt of having these painful thoughts and feelings.
  6. Understanding of major issues. With his/her sharing of the issues, both therapist and client get insight and understanding of what is happening to the patient.
  7. Addressing their underlying loneliness. The therapist’s witnessing without judgement alleviates the loneliness felt by the patient of living with the struggles.
  8. Clarity in their responses to feeling questions. The therapist guides the client to get in touch with feelings.
  9. Awareness of how the patient is repressing emotions.
  10. Experiencing repressed emotions. These emotions are very difficult and oftentimes painful. When these are expressed, the distress is followed by relief.
  11. Grounding. As the emotions subside, grounding is the act of bringing the client into the here-and-now in the interaction with the therapist.
  12. Acknowledgement of relief. The relief felt from expressing these emotions and grounding is given some attention so that the patient is able to take in the phenomenon.
  13. Self acceptance and understanding. Therapist and client spend some time expressing gratitude for what they have experienced together.
  14. Exploring options for the future.
  15. No-suicide contracts. The patient promises to not attempting suicide through signing a contract with the therapist.

Read more: Suicide crisis intervention: working with people who are in danger of taking their own lives.

Bibliography

Young, Lin & Lester, David. (2001). Gestalt Therapy Approaches to Crisis Intervention With Suicidal Clients. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention. 1. 10.1093/brief-treatment/1.1.65.