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Treating Self-Destructive Persons: How do we help our clients? How do we help ourselves?

  • The Courtyard Marriott 75 Felton Street Marlborough, MA, 01752 United States (map)

Treating non-suicidal self-injury and/or suicidal behavior can be among the most challenging, yet rewarding, of clinical endeavors. This workshop will review state-of-the-art, evidence-based clinical approaches to treating self-harm, while also addressing the self-care necessary to do such work.


The presentation will have two parts. Part I will review the basics of working with clients who present with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) such as cutting, burning, skin picking and/or suicidal behavior. Evidence-based approaches for understanding, assessing, and treating these problems will be reviewed. Suicide and self-injury will be clearly differentiated but the empirical link between recurrent NSSI and suicide attempts will also be elucidated. Klonsky and May's new "Ideation to Action Framework" for dealing with suicidality will be discussed. In addition, Thomas Joiner's new Acute Suicidal Affective Disturbance will be reviewed.

Presenter: Barent Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Clinical Consultant at The Bridge, a human service agency in Worcester, MA. 

Part II will focus on the challenges and rewards for professionals working with the loss, trauma, and misery of self-destructive clients. Starting with a brief review of Andy Warhol's stark "Death and Disaster Series," we will discuss the role of compassion in working with self-destructive clients. Recommendations will be proposed for sitting with loss, misery, and impermanence. The risks of working with prolonged misery in others (such as vicarious traumatization) will also be reviewed. Self-care for professionals will be emphasized with identification of what helps maintain a compassionate frame, an optimistic commitment, and an activist's stance.

Following this training the participants will:

  • Learn to differentiate suicide from non-suicidal self-injury
  • Learn evidence-based interventions for NSSI and suicide
  • Be able to discuss the complexities of self-care related to working with loss, trauma, and misery found in self-destructive clients.


Earlier Event: November 4
Mental health & the IEP 102
Later Event: November 9
Transforming MSW Field Learning