Program

Jun 04, 2013

OVERVIEW

This skills-based treatment (SBT) is a six-month long cognitive behavioral treatment program designed to support problem solving and affect management skills in adolescents who have attempted suicide. In an experimental evaluation of the program, adolescents were randomly assigned to SBT or a supportive relationship treatment (SRT) typical of community outpatient settings.  No differences were found between the two treatment groups in re-attempts at suicide, suicidal ideation, depression, anger expression, or problem solving.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Adolescents who have attempted suicide

This skills-based treatment (SBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment that is delivered on an individual basis. It is designed to support problem solving and affect management skills, which are often described as deficits in adolescent suicide attempters.

The treatment is divided into two three-month phases: active treatment and maintenance.  During the active treatment phase, adolescents receive six individual sessions and one family session.  The maintenance phase is comprised of three monthly sessions, which may be supplemented by two additional family and crisis sessions, if deemed necessary by the therapist.

During the SBT sessions, participants are assessed for suicidality, skill education, and skill practice. Adolescents work on problem solving and affect management and are given homework assignments.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Donaldson, D., Spirito, A., & Esposito-Smythers, C. (2005). Treatment for adolescents following  a suicide attempt: Results of a pilot trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 44(2), 113-120.

Evaluated population:  Thirty nine adolescents, ages 12-17, served as the sample for this study.  These adolescents had attempted suicide, 84 percent by overdose, and were referred to the study by their treating psychiatrist or psychologist. Seven of the participants were male, while 32 were female.  Eighty-five percent of the sample was white.

Approach: The participants were randomized into two groups: a skills-based treatment (SBT) group or a supportive relationship treatment (SRT), typical of community outpatient settings, which served as the control group. Each treatment group received six months of treatment: three months of active treatment, and three months of maintenance treatment, as explained above.

The SRT group had unstructured sessions that addressed symptoms and problems using exploratory questioning, connecting affect to events, encouraging affect, and providing feedback.  No specific skills were taught, nor were homework assignments given.

Participants were evaluated at intake, three, and six months after the suicide attempt.  (A subsample of 18 participants was also assessed at 12 months post-attempt.) Adolescents were assessed on reattempts at suicide, suicidal ideation, depression, anger expression, social problem solving, and means-ends problem solving.

Thirty-one adolescents completed all three evaluations. No significant differences were found between participants who completed the study and those who dropped out of the study or between participants in the treatment and control groups.

Results: Significant reductions in depressed mood and suicide ideation were found for both experimental and control group members at the three- and six-month follow ups.  However, there were no significant differences between the SBT and SRT groups on any of the outcome variables.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Donaldson, D., Spirito, A., & Esposito-Smythers, C. (2005). Treatment for adolescents following  a suicide attempt: Results of a pilot trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 44(2), 113-120.

Contact Information

Deidre Donaldson

The May Institute

41 Pacella Park Drive
Randolph, MA 02368
ddonaldson@mayinstitute.org

781.440.0400

KEYWORDS: Adolescents (12-17), Youth (16+), Males and Females (Co-ed), High-Risk, Clinic/Provider-based, Counseling/Therapy, Parent or Family Component, Skills Training, Depression/Mood Disorders, Other Mental Health, Social Skills/Life Skills

Program information last updated on 1/10/2013.