Tuning in to clients' experiences

While counsellors often need to use risk assessment forms in their work, evidence highlights the importance of being able to hear people’s experiences of suicidal thoughts. Being able to 'tune in' to thoughts and suicidal thinking can be an important way forward in helping clients move away from a suicidal place.

Use of risk assessment tools

We're aware of concerns and debate about the validity and incorrect use of risk assessment tools by counsellors and psychotherapists.

BACP’s guidance is fully aligned to the current NICE guidelines and is clear that risk assessment tools alone are not a safe and accurate way to predict future suicide risk or repetition of self-harm. We believe therapists working with clients are not using risk assessment tools to determine who should be offered treatment, they are offering a ‘therapeutic relationship’ as recommended in the NICE guidelines which were updated on 7 September 2022.

Therapists do not rely solely on risk assessment tools when making complex judgments about the risk of suicide or self-harm, they would use their relationship with the client to assess immediate or changing risk taking into account the full psychosocial context of the client. The NICE guidelines recognise that risk assessment should focus on the client's needs and how they can be supported in their immediate and long-term psychological and physical safety.

Working with suicidal risk

Evidence shows that counselling people who are suicidal can be an important and effective way of offering support and helping them make sense of their feelings. Considering the therapeutic process around working with suicidal risk is a critical consideration for every practitioner.

Balancing client safety and confidentiality

Working ethically around risk in counselling and psychotherapy is an imperative. These resources consider how we might respond to suicidal risk, ethically balancing the safety of the client alongside their autonomy and right to confidentiality.

Strategies for self-care

Working with suicidal potential can challenge even the most experienced practitioner, and research shows how demanding such work can be on the mental health of the counsellor. These resources offer thoughts and ideas about strategies for self-care, to support practitioner wellbeing and ensure best practice for the client.

From our CPD hub

For more information...

This is just a small selection of our content. To see more, search the website for suicide-related resources.

World Suicide Prevention Day is organised every year by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). It aims to provide the opportunity for people, across the globe, to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention.

If you have any comments or feedback on this page, please email communications@bacp.co.uk.