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Suicide

How Do We Find a Therapist for Suicide Outpatient Treatment?

Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

If someone's need for acute care is not urgent and/or if he or she is being discharged from the ER or the hospital, you may need to help find a psychotherapist to continue care. Hopefully, your friend or family member will be provided with a list of appropriate local therapists as he or she is leaving the ER or the hospital (ask for such a list if one is not automatically provided).

hand on computerIt can seem overwhelming to recently discharged patients to follow up with the task of setting up a therapy appointment. You can make this task less difficult for your friend or family member by assisting with the task of interviewing therapists to see if they are a good potential fit. For example, is the therapist on the necessary insurance provider panel listing? Are they local? Do they have open appointments during convenient times? Then help to set up an appointment. Be sure to explain to each therapist you speak with that the suicidal person was (or is) suicidal. If you don't make the urgency of the situation clear, and the psychotherapist has a busy schedule (which is likely), it may be some time before a first appointment can occur. If therapists know your situation is urgent, they may find a way to get the suicidal person in sooner. If a therapist you call cannot give you an appointment soon enough, call another therapist or two until you get a timely appointment. Ask therapists for further referrals. They will almost surely know of other experienced clinicians practicing in your local area.

You may also need to offer to transport someone to his or her first (or subsequent) treatment sessions. While you are certainly not a chauffeur, addressing these types of barriers can go a long way to ensure that your friend or family member gets better. Try to enlist the support of other people who can also pitch and drive to appointments.

Despite the trouble it may be for you to assist with the therapy referral process, it is particularly important that you do what you can to assist the recently discharged suicidal person with the task of making and then showing up for a therapy appointment. Research suggests that the risk of suicide relapse remains high during the first month after being discharged from the hospital, and a therapy appointment is a way of managing that risk.

If you do not already have a list of appropriate local therapists, you can search for local therapists online here. Further guidance for choosing a psychotherapist can be found here.

You may also wish to offer a recently suicidal person assistance with other aspects of daily living so as to help him or her manage stressors while transitioning back to normal life. The temptation is to say something like "call me if you need anything", but this instruction ends up being vague. It is better to offer specific types of assistance. Make a few specific offers and let the recently suicidal person choose from among them. For example, offering to walk the dog, to run out for some groceries, or to provide temporary childcare may be helpful.

 

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