Maybe you've been asked this before. How do you feel about the large amount of therapists/psychiatrists who won't see suicidal patients or patients with that in their history. I get that losing a patient is very difficult and they risk being sued, but I think that they have a duty to treat patients anyway. What are your thoughts?
I don’t think I have received this question before!
I really haven’t experienced therapists who don’t see suicidal clients- I’ve never worked in a setting where we didn’t take suicidal clients, and I can’t think of a therapist I know who doesn’t take them in their private practice. I’m wondering if it’s more common among private practice therapists, because it’s rare among larger agencies or public mental health programs.
In situations I have had in the past where we didn’t see one group of people or another, it was more about whether we had the ability to provide quality treatment for them. For example, one clinic I worked in didn’t take clients with eating disorders, because we didn’t have an MD, nurse, or dietitian on staff to help with the medical aspects of things, which means we wouldn’t be able to effectively provide care. Some providers may decide they need an interdisciplinary team to work with suicidal clients, or that their personal expertise doesn’t include suicidality. I agree it’s important to make sure people have access to mental health care, but that doesn’t mean seeing them yourself. It means deciding whether or not you can effectively help the person, and if not, who to refer them to instead. There are some pieces of the ethics guidelines that indicates that if a therapist is the best option for a person and they are able to see them, then it’s okay to see someone outside of their range of competence. Otherwise, it’s an unethical decision that could seriously harm the client seeking help.