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Handling Clients with Suicidal Thoughts

I would like to thank Philip Armstrong of the Australian Counselling Association for allowing us to reproduce this article. It is good to view how our colleagues from the other side of the world face up to the challenges that we face in our professional lives.

Guidelines for Dealing with Suicidal Clients


  • Preamble
  •  Clients* with suicidal thoughts sometimes seek help; that help is sometimes sought from Counsellors. While, short of a 24/7 ‘suicide watch’, it is not possible to stop the suicide of a determined client, it is possible to minimise the risk of such a tragic outcome.
  • Counsellors should be aware that these tragic consequences are threefold:
  • for the client
  • for the client’s family and friendship groups
  • for the client’s counsellor and any other allied health workers involved in the case**.
  • The following guidelines (which are taken to include other relevant ACA (INC) documents such as the Code of Ethics and Practice etc.) are provided to highlight several principles that ACA (INC) registered counsellors and members need to make themselves aware of when dealing with clients in this risk group. They are not intended as a guide as to how to practice and nor should they be used or taken as such.
  • Counsellors should be aware of possible legal implications when working with all clients, but particularly, due to the emotional and wide-ranging consequences, when working with those at risk of suicide. Counsellors, while part of a caring profession where the welfare of the client is considered the priority, need to be familiar with their obligations under the various State Health Rights Commissions and the ACA (INC) Code of Ethics and Practice and Complaint Procedural Guidelines.

To read full text please click on Australian Counselling Association

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