When Teens Self-Harm: How to Effectively Involve Parents

Two Experts Weigh In

Victoria Kress, John Sommers-Flanagan, and Zachary Taylor

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a particularly crucial initiative in this challenging time. Six months after dramatic lockdowns nationwide, the country still finds itself in the throes of the Coronavirus pandemic, and studies have begun to confirm what we already knew to be true: the toll on mental health has been significant, especially for young adults. According to a recently published study by the CDC, about one in four people between the ages of 18 and 24 seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before the survey was conducted.

That was back in June.

Working with young clients struggling with suicidal ideation and self-harm is never easy, and neither is effectively involving clients’ parents and caregivers when necessary. How should therapists navigate the practical, emotional, and ethical difficulties? In this clip from a joint panel with the American Counseling Association, two key experts explore these issues.

“We all wrestle with this,” says Kress. “Every case is different.” What’s clear, she explains, is that, in spite of those difficulties, it’s vital for parents to be involved. Sommers-Flanagan echoes her thinking, and emphasizes the importance of being direct with young clients and their caregivers, albeit in a sensitive way.

Victoria Kress, PhD, LPCC, is a professor and director of clinical mental health and addictions counseling programs at Youngstown State University. John Sommers-Flanagan, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and professor of counselor education at the University of Montana. Zachary Taylor, MA, LPC, NCC, is director of continuing education at Psychotherapy Networker.