What is it about?

Suicidality in therapy is often addressed through a risk assessment. This process requires alliance building, empathy, compassion, and personal reflection to avoid the potentially stigmatizing and distancing effects of a manualized risk assessment approach. An existential approach to suicidality requires vulnerability within the therapist, and emphasizes the human connection between therapist and client. This paper uses The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus to provide a frame for suicide largely missing from the psychotherapeutic literature. This existential perspective validates suicidality as a reasonable reaction to the absurdity of existence. Camus’s perspective and honesty speaks to the empathetic power of existentialism in relation to the painful journey of being human. Human existence requires one to assert their own freedom over their existential situation and create meaning worth living for. Empowering clients to face this tension and create meaning in a world devoid of it can be an important part of the psychotherapeutic process, particularly for clients experiencing suicidality.

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Why is it important?

This essay explores suicidality in the psychotherapeutic space beyond a risk assessment, an approach which is largely missing from the existing literature. This requires both the therapist and the client to authentically connect as humans, and this connection may provide a protective factor for suicidality. Additionally, this essay highlights an existentialist approach to suicidality. This approach may normalize an often pathologized experience, which further reduces risk factors of distancing and stigmatizing client experiences.

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This page is a summary of: Suicidality: An existential phenomenon., The Humanistic Psychologist, August 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/hum0000300.
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