A Conversation about Gaps between Science and Practice in the Field of Suicidality

Session Recording


A nuanced understanding of the gaps between theory, practice, and research is necessary as an urgent response as suicide continues to devastate individuals, families, communities, and society.

Suicide has been and is of significant concern in the mental health field. A considerable body of literature focuses on suicide risk assessment, treatment, and prevention. However, the incorporation of these research and theoretical advances in routine care by practitioners has been largely unexamined. This presentation will focus on challenges confronting practitioners when utilizing research and theoretical advances in suicidology. Existing research on these challenges – lack of suicide-specific training; fear of malpractice litigation, of losing a client to suicide, and of the potential emotional trauma and decrease of self-efficacy; complexities of the decision-making process entailed by a risk assessment; practical barriers such as time constraints and competing demands; and lack of usage of psychometric tools – that confront practitioners will be reviewed.

Identifying and addressing these barriers has implications to help bridge the gaps between theory, research, and practice to improve the quality of care. These barriers must be brought into mainstream discussions. Recognition of these barriers would lead to efforts that are sensitive to the needs of the practitioners who would otherwise hesitate to work with high-risk clients. 

Clinical, training, policy implications, and future research directions will be reviewed. Specific recommendations include suicide-specific training that targets trainee confidence and self-efficacy by practicing skills in real-world scenarios; incorporation of research and theory-based knowledge without suppressing professional judgment; recognition of both rapid intuitive and deliberate analytic processes involved in clinical decision-making; research efforts driven by an analysis of practical issues; and assessment and development of institutional policies to support practitioner’s assessment and treatment planning efforts. 

In summary, this presentation will provide an overview of factors to help practitioners be informed and empowered when working with clients presenting with various forms of suicidality. Participants will be introduced to the content through PowerPoint. The presenter will facilitate discussion using purposeful questions and soliciting participant feedback and input regarding their experience with these and other barriers.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this program, participants should be better able to:

  1. Describe the specific challenges faced by practitioners in utilizing research and theoretical advances in the field of suicidality
  2. Examine the existing research on current barriers that contribute to the gaps between science, practice, and research
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of clinical, training, policy, and research recommendations to bridge the abovementioned gaps.

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Professor and Clinical Psychologist — Rhode Island College and RICBT/OneCBT

Dr. Kene is a Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Leadership, and School Psychology at Rhode Island College (RIC).

She is a board-certified clinical psychologist and is licensed in the states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Dr. Kene serves as the Director of Patient Safety at a group practice. Her areas of research and clinical interests include suicide risk assessment and suicide prevention.

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