The Practical Art of Suicide Assessment:
A Guide for Mental Health Professionals
and Substance Abuse Counselors
Shawn C. Shea
Few clinical challenges are as daunting or critical as the art of suicide assessment.
Written by the author of the leading text on clinical interviewing and a nationally
recognized expert on assessment interviews, The Practical Art of Suicide Assessment
is a concise guidebook on how to assess suicidal risk no matter how complicated the clinical
presentation. The text is filled with sample questions, effective strategies, case histories,
and excerpts from actual suicide assessments. Dr. Shawn Christopher Shea helps the reader
understand the complex inner worlds of both the client contemplating suicide and the clinician
trying to prevent it, showing how these worlds invariably interact with and change one another.
Dr. Shea highlights the elusive nature of suicidal ideation and demonstrates the current limitations
of prediction. Through examination of the etiology and phenomenology of suicide, he explains
how to recognize its many faces, enhancing the interviewer's ability to uncover danger that
others might miss. This book focuses on the art of eliciting suicidal ideation, introducing
a rapid, thorough, and sensitive interviewing strategy to determine lethal risk—the
Chronological Assessment of Suicide Events (the CASE approach). Developed by Dr. Shea in
the "clinical trenches" of a busy emergency room at the Western Psychiatric Institute and
Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the CASE approach is a flexible interview strategy that
leads the clinician into the details of the client's suicidal ideation and planning. An actual
clinical transcript of the CASE approach is included, illustrating its nuances and techniques
as they unfold.