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Title: Death anxiety and existential concerns among patients experiencing chronic or recurrent suicidal ideation in interpersonal reconstructive therapy.
Authors: Critchfield, Kenneth L.
Harvell-Bowman, Lindsey
Keywords: recurrence
suicidal ideation
Psychiatric patients -- Psychosocial factors
Health personnel
Psychotherapy -- Methods
Suicidal Ideation -- Therapy
Attachment Behavior
interpersonal relations
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Wiley
Citation: Critchfield, K. L., & Harvell-Bowman, L.A. (2022). Death anxiety and existential concerns among patients experiencing chronic or recurrent suicidal ideation in interpersonal reconstructive therapy. Clinical Psychologist, 27(1), 45-57.
Series/Report no.: Clinical Psychologist;27(1)
Abstract: Through detailed analysis of case examples, this work seeks to provide valuable insights for clinicians wishing to explore suicidality with their patients in ways that are informed both by existential and attachment-based perspectives. Specific case studies are used to explore and illustrate areas of intersection around the topic of suicidality using Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy (IRT) theory and Terror Management Theory (TMT) lenses together. Intersecting themes focus on meaning-making, attachment, and how these together inform how patients experiencing chronic suicidal ideation appear to overcome the evolutionary desire to survive. In this view, suicidality can be seen as a maladaptive attempt at adaptation, miscued by learning about perceived safety and threat signals derived from close attachment relationships. Implications for theory, research and practice are discussed. What is already known about this topic: In Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy (IRT), patterns linked to suicidality can often be seen as reflecting lessons learned about self and others in the context of close attachment relationships, and these lessons are summarized for individual using a reliable case formulation method. Maladaptive behaviour that is motivated by desires to receive love, protection, or approval from problematic internalized attachment figures is termed a "gift of love" (GOL). Work with the GOL is a major focus in IRT and typically involves gaining sufficient awareness of related patterns, their origins, and their functions in the present. The awareness allows greater choice about changing problematic behaviour, including suicidality. What this topic adds: Clinical case examples from IRT work, supplemented by extant research data, highlight how existential and relational themes are involved in the change process with suicidal patients having complex presentations and prior non-response to treatment. Case illustrations demonstrate how suicide, when present as a GOL, can override normative fears of death as part of a maladaptive attempt to solve problems that are themselves rooted in relationships and relational patterns. Also demonstrated is how will and existential choice are involved in relinquishing the GOL, and related desires for death, by differentiating oneself from the rules and values of internalized loved ones
Description: Peer-reviewed article
ISSN: 1328-4207
Appears in Collections:Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology: Faculty Publications

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