Talking about Suicide can be scary, intimidating, and emotional. Being a therapist, many people are curious about what it’s like to hear these heavy conversations on a daily basis. Yet, I am still a human and admittedly struggle with these heavy conversations from time to time. It is hard when my practice is rooted in empathy, and I want the best for you. However, it is an honor to be working with clients who trust me enough to hold space for their biggest secrets. There are many ways to navigate Suicidal Ideation, from assessments to plans, it can be overwhelming; however, I am here to walk with you on this journey.
Here are three techniques I keep in mind when exploring Suicide conversations:
- 1. Validate
- The key to validating someone’s experience is to be fully present by active listening and leading with empathy as you respond. This can look like a nod and maintenance of eye contact, then saying, “Thank you for sharing that with me, it takes a lot of strength to be vulnerable.” This way, I have acknowledged a client’s presence by closely following the conversation and really “seeing” you. Often, people want and need to be heard, so making an intentional effort to give you that space is crucial.
- 2. Normalize
- Suicide as a whole is rarely talked about, yet it is the second largest cause of death for adolescents. It is more common than we might think, and it may look different than the stigma portrays. This is why I like to normalize the experience. It takes the pressure off and lets my clients put their guard down. Making the suicide topic less taboo and more conversational is the goal. Normalizing may look like helping clients understand they may have made mistakes, yet their feelings are understandable given the situation. Respecting the client’s feelings and their right to believe what they do, for instance, “Of course, you are angry, that had to be incredibly frustrating at the moment.” Putting shame and guilt aside allows us to talk openly about what really matters.
- 3. Reflect
- Often, in the height of Suicidal Ideation, feelings may cloud our better judgment, inhibiting our ability to think clearly. Allowing clients to talk about their experiences and feelings compared to their thoughts now can be beneficial to analyze what’s going on. Shifting the focus from feeling to thinking about the concern moves us into a new frame of mind. Understanding the thought process, what happened, and where things started to become complicated is a great way to understand the depth of the problem. I like to do this with my clients to help them see their concerns in a new light, offering a contrasting perspective to their inner thoughts. Before we make a plan of action, helping clients understand the entirety of what’s happening helps break out of the tunnel vision a crisis may create.
At the end of the day, even in our most vulnerable moments, there is room for empathy, understanding, and growth. In the darkest times, reaching out to counselors, friends, and family strengthens bonds and promotes healing. Through validation, normalization, and reflection, we can support one another on the journey, offering a glimmer of hope. Together, through shared connection and understanding, your strength and resilience will guide you.