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Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for
Suicide Prevention

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Future Directions
Gregory K. Brown, PhD, Shari Jager-Hyman, PhD

From the Pere
Philadelphia, P

Address co
Psychiatry, Un
Philadelphia P

0749-3797/
http://dx.do

S186 Am J

Psychotherapeutic interventions targeting suicidal thoughts and behaviors are essential for reducing
suicide attempts and deaths by suicide. To determine whether specific psychotherapies are
efficacious in preventing suicide and suicide-related behaviors, it is necessary to rigorously evaluate
therapies using RCTs. To date, a number of RCTs have demonstrated efficacy for several
interventions focused on preventing suicide attempts and reducing suicidal ideation. Although
these studies have contributed greatly to the understanding of treatment for suicidal thoughts and
behaviors, the extant literature is hampered by a number of gaps and methodologic limitations.
Thus, further research employing increased methodologic rigor is needed to improve psychother-
apeutic suicide prevention efforts. The aims of this paper are to briefly review the state of the science
for psychotherapeutic interventions for suicide prevention, discuss gaps and methodologic
limitations of the extant literature, and suggest next steps for improving future studies.
(Am J Prev Med

2014

;47(3S2):S186–S194) & 2014 American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Introduction

T
he development and implementation of effective
interventions are imperative for reducing rates of
suicide and related behaviors. In response to the

ongoing need for effective treatments aimed at prevent-
ing suicide and self-directed violence, the National
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s (Action Alli-
ance) Research Prioritization Task Force (RPTF)1 has
proposed the following Aspirational Goal focused on
psychotherapeutic interventions: “…develop widely
available, more effective and efficient psychosocial inter-
ventions targeted at individuals, families, and community
levels.”
The current paper has three main aims in discussing

this Aspirational Goal. First, with a focus on RCTs, the
state of the science for evidence-based psychotherapy
interventions for suicidal ideation and behavior is
reviewed. Second, limitations of the current research
and suggestions for future research are discussed. Finally,
a step-by-step pathway for evaluating psychotherapy
interventions for suicide prevention is proposed.

lman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania,
ennsylvania
rrespondence to: Gregory K. Brown, PhD, Department of
iversity of Pennsylvania, 3535 Market Street, Room 2032,
A 19104-3309. E-mail: gregbrow@mail.med.upenn.edu.
$36.00
i.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2014.06.008

Prev Med 2014;47(3S2):S186–S194 & 2014 Ame

State of the Science of Evidence-Based
Treatments for Suicide Prevention
Several RCTs2–5 have demonstrated promising results in
reducing suicide attempts and self-directed violence. A
comprehensive review of the literature is beyond the
scope of this paper; however, reviews2–5 were used to
identify studies to include in this brief review. A selection
of studies yielding positive effects will be highlighted and
presented in Table 1. Briefly, cognitive therapy for suicide
prevention (CT-SP)6; cognitive–behavioral therapy
(CBT)7; dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)8; problem-
solving therapy (PST)9; mentalization-based treatment
(MBT)10; and psychodynamic interpersonal therapy
(PIT)11 have all evidenced positive effects for preventing
suicide attempts or self-directed violence in adults.
More specifically, recent suicide attempters who

received CT-SP were 50% less likely to reattempt than
participants who received enhanced usual care (EUC)
with tracking and referrals.6 CBT plus treatment as usual
(TAU) also reduced self-harming behaviors relative to
TAU alone.7 For individuals with borderline personality
disorder (BPD), DBT demonstrated a greater reduction in
suicide attempts relative to community treatment by
experts.8 However, DBT was not statistically more effec-
tive than a manualized general psychiatric management
condition, consisting of case management, dynamically
informed psychotherapy, and medication management.12

Also focused on BPD, MBT, a psychoanalytically
oriented partial hospitalization program, was more

rican Journal of Preventive Medicine � Published by Elsevier Inc.

mailto:gregbrow@mail.med.upenn.edu

mailto:gregbrow@mail.med.upenn.edu

dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2014.06.008

dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2014.06.008

dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2014.06.008

Table 1. Summary of select RCTs

Authors Sample
Study

intervention
Control
condition

Outcome
variables

Follow-up
intervals Main findings

Bateman and
Fonagy
(1999)10

Adults with BPD
referred to
psychiatric unit

Partial
hospitalization
(n¼19)

Standard
psychiatric
care (n¼19)

Suicide
attempts

3, 6, 9, 12, 15,
18 months

Patients who received the study intervention
experienced a significant reduction in attempts
from admission to 18 months (Kendall’s W¼0.59,
χ2(3)¼33.5, po0.001)

Blum et al.
(2008)13

Adults with BPD STEPPS plus
TAU (n¼65)

TAU (n¼59) Suicide
attempts

1, 3, 6, 9, 12
months

No differences in time to first suicide attempt
between STEPPS þ TAU and TAU groups;
χ2(1)o0.1, p¼0.994

Brown et al.
(2005)6

Adults recruited
from ED following
a suicide attempt

CT (n¼60) EUC (n¼60)

Suicidal
ideation,
suicide
attempts

1, 3, 6, 12, 18
months

At 6 months, using the Kaplan–Meier method,
estimated reattempt-free probability: CT
group¼0.86 (95% CI¼074, 0.93); usual care
¼0.68 (95% CI¼0.54, 0.79)
At 18 months, estimated reattempt-free
probability: CT¼0.76 (95% CI¼0.62, 0.85); usual
care¼0.58 (95% CI¼0.44, 0.70)
Patients in the CT condition had a significantly
lower reattempt rate (Wald χ2¼3.9, p¼0.049) and
were 50% less likely to reattempt than the usual
care group (hazard ratio¼0.51, 95% CI¼0.26, 0.997)
There were no significant group differences in
suicidal ideation

Bruce et al.
(2004)21

Depressed older
adults recruited
from primary care

Structured,
team-based
intervention
including
citalopram þ
psychotherapy
(n¼320)

TAU (n¼278) Suicidal
ideation

4, 8, 12
months

Rates of suicidal ideation declined faster for the
intervention group (12.9% decline from baseline)
than the TAU group (3.0% decline from baseline;
p¼0.01 for all depressed patients, p¼0.006 for
patients with MDD)

Comtois et al.
(2011)17

Adults evaluated
for suicide
attempt or
imminent risk but
judged safe for
discharge

CAMS (n¼16) E-CAU (n¼16) Suicide
attempts,
suicidal
ideation

2, 4, 6, 12
months

Participants who received CAMS made fewer
suicide attempts than those who received E-CAU
at 2-, 4-, and 6-month follow-upsa

Suicidal ideation improved significantly for CAMS
patients, reaching 89% reduction at 12 months,
RR¼0.11, 95% CI¼0.04, 0.30; at 12 months,
E-CAU patients reported significantly worse
suicidal ideation than CAMS patients (RR¼4.81,
95% CI¼1.61, 14.33)

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Table 1. Summary of select RCTs (continued)

Authors Sample
Study
intervention
Control
condition
Outcome
variables
Follow-up
intervals Main findings

Davidson et al.
(2006)14

Adults with BPD
and an episode of
DSH within the
past 12 months

CBT þ TAU
(n¼53)

TAU (n¼49) Suicidal acts 6, 12, 18, 24
months

After 24 months, there was a greater reduction in
number of suicidal acts in the intervention group
compared to the TAU group (mean difference¼
–0.91, p¼0.020)

Diamond et al.
(2010)19

Adolescents
identified as
suicidal by
screening during
primary care or
ED visits

ABFT (n¼35) EUC (n¼31) Suicidal
ideation

6, 12, 24
weeks

At the 12-week assessment, patients receiving
ABFT demonstrated a significantly greater rate of
improvement in suicidal ideation than patients
receiving EUC, F(1, 64)¼12.60, p¼0.001
ABFT had a significant effect on clinical recovery
(SIQ-JR r13) of suicidal ideation at all time points;
at 6 weeks, 69.7% of ABFT patients and 40.7% of
EUC patients reported suicidal ideation in the
normative range, OR¼3.35, 95% CI¼1.15, 9.73,
χ²(1)¼5.07, p¼0.02; at 12 weeks, 87.1% of ABFT
patients and 51.7% of EUC patients reported
ideation in the normative range, OR¼6.30, 95%
CI¼1.76, 22.61, χ²(1)¼8.93, p¼0.003; at 24
weeks, 70% of ABFT patients and 34.6% of EUC
patients reported ideation in the normative range,
OR¼4.41, 95% CI¼1.43, 13.56, χ²(1)¼7.01,
p¼0.008

Guthrie et al.
(2001)11

Adults presenting
to ED after self-
poisoning

Psychody-
namic
interpersonal
therapy
delivered in
home (n¼58)

TAU (n¼61) Suicidal
ideation

1, 6 months At the 6-month follow-up assessment, patients
receiving the study intervention reported lower
levels of suicidal ideation compared to those
receiving TAU (differences between means¼ –4.9,
95% CI¼ –8.2, –1.6, p¼0.005)

Hatcher et al.
(2011)9

Adults presenting
to a hospital after
self-harm

PST (n¼522) Usual care
(n¼572)

Self-harm 3, 12 months Fewer patients receiving PST reported repeat
episodes of self-harm at the 12-month
assessment than those receiving usual care
(RR¼0.39, 95% CI¼0.07, 0.60, p¼0.03)

Huey et al.
(2004)16

Youth following
ED visit for suicide
attempt, ideation,
or planning

MSTb Standard
treatmentb

Suicidal
ideation,
suicide
attempts

4, 16 months MST was significantly more effective than
standard treatment at reducing suicide attempts
over 16 months, t(linear)¼2.61, po0.01, t
(quadratic)¼3.60, po0.001
There were no significant group differences for
suicidal ideation

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Table 1. Summary of select RCTs (continued)
Authors Sample
Study
intervention
Control
condition
Outcome
variables
Follow-up
intervals Main findings

Linehan et al.
(2006)8

Women with BPD
with Z2 episodes
of self-harm in the
past 5 years,
including Z1
within the past 8
weeks

DBT (n¼52) Community
treatment by
experts
(n¼49)

Suicidal
ideation,
suicide
attempts

4, 8, 12, 16,
20, 24 months

Fewer patients receiving DBT had suicide attempts
than those receiving treatment by experts (23.1%
vs 46%, hazard ratio¼2.66, p¼0.005, NNT¼4.24,
95% CI¼2.40, 18.07); the mean proportions of
suicide attempters per treatment group per period
were 6.2% (95% CI¼3.1%, 11.7%) and 12.2%
(95% CI¼7.1%, 20.3%) for the DBT and control
groups, respectively
Fewer patients receiving DBT than community
treatment by experts had non-ambivalent suicide
attempts (5.8% vs 13.3%, p¼0.18, Fisher’s exact
test and NNT¼13.3, 95% CI¼5.28, 25.41)
There were no significant group differences for
suicidal ideation

McMain et al.
(2009)12

Adults with BPD
with Z2 suicidal
or non-suicidal
self-injurious
episodes in the
past 5 years, Z1
episode in the
past 3 months

DBT (n¼90) General
psychiatric
management
(n¼90)

Frequency and
severity of
suicidal
episodes

4, 8, 12
months

There were no significant group differences for
suicidal episodes

Slee et al.
(2008)7

Adults who
recently engaged
in deliberate self-
poisoning or self-
injury

CBT þ TAU
(n¼40)

TAU (n¼42) Self-harm,
suicidal
cognition

3, 6, 9 months At 9 months, patients who received CBT þ TAU
had significantly greater reductions in self-harm
than those who received TAU alone (po0.05)
CBT þTAU patients had significantly decreased
suicidal cognitions as compared to TAU patients at
the 3- (po0.05), 6- (po0.05), and 9-month
(po0.01) assessments

Stewart et al.
(2009)18

Adults in
treatment
following a suicide
attempt

CBT (n¼11),
PST (n¼12)

TAU (n¼9) Suicidal
ideation,
suicide
attempts

4 weeks (PST),
7 weeks (CBT),

2 months
(TAU)

CBT was the most effective treatment for reducing
suicide attempts; patients receiving CBT made no
attempts during the study, whereas patients
receiving PST and TAU made an average of 0.33
attempts and 0.22 attempts, respectively
Suicidal ideation decreased with both CBT (z¼
�2.32, po0.05, r¼0.49) and PST (z¼�2.39,
po0.05, r¼0.49); decreases in suicidal ideation
were greater for the PST than TAU group (U¼26.5,
pr0.05, r¼0.49)

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Brown and Jager-Hyman / Am J Prev Med 2014;47(3S2):S186–S194S190

effective than general psychiatric services
in reducing suicidal and self-mutilatory
acts.10 Similarly, relative to TAU alone,
PST plus usual care resulted in a decrease
in repeat hospitalizations for self-harm in
individuals with a history of previous self-
harm.9 Finally, four home-based sessions
of interpersonal therapy were more effec-
tive than TAU in reducing suicidal idea-
tion and repeated self-harm in individuals
who self-poisoned.11

Although a number of suicide-
prevention interventions have evidenced
efficacy, other interventions, including
systems training for emotional predict-
ability and problem solving13 and CBT for
Cluster B personality disorders,14 have
not been supported empirically. For a
comprehensive review of negative find-
ings, please see previous reviews.2–5

Fewer studies15,16 have demonstrated
efficacy for psychotherapy interventions
in reducing self-directed violence in ado-
lescents. Wood and colleagues15 found that
adolescents who received developmental
group therapy (consisting of components
of CBT, DBT, and psychodynamic group
therapy) plus TAU were less likely to
engage in repeated deliberate self-harm
on two or more occasions than those
who received TAU alone. Finally, multi-
systemic therapy, an intensive family-
based treatment, reduced the frequency
of suicide attempts compared to treatment
received during inpatient hospitalization.16

In addition to psychosocial interven-
tions designed to prevent suicide
attempts, several psychotherapy treat-
ments directly target suicidal ideation.
Specifically, collaborative assessment and
management of suicidality (CAMS),17

CBT,18 PST,18 and PIT11 have resulted
in the reduction of suicidal ideation in
adults. CAMS, a therapeutic framework
focused on identifying causes of suicidal
ideation and treatment goals for reducing
suicidal ideation, was associated with
significantly greater and sustained reduc-
tion of suicidal ideation at 12 months
post-treatment compared to TAU.17 Sim-
ilarly, both PST and CBT resulted
in greater reduction of suicidal ideation
than TAU.16 Attachment-based family

www.ajpmonline.org

Brown and Jager-Hyman / Am J Prev Med 2014;47(3S2):S186–S194 S191

therapy, which focuses on strengthening the parent–
adolescent attachment bond, has also demonstrated
promise in reducing suicidal ideation in suicidal adoles-
cents relative to EUC.19

Finally, to our knowledge, two studies have demon-
strated efficacy in reducing suicidal ideation in depressed
older adults in primary care settings.20,21 The Improving
Mood: Promoting Access to Collaborative Treatment
study determined that a collaborative, team-based
approach to treating depression resulted in a greater
reduction of suicidal ideation than usual care. The
Prevention of Suicide in Primary Care Elderly: Collabo-
rative Trial intervention, consisting of a clinical algo-
rithm for treating geriatric depression in primary care
settings and care management, was more effective in
reducing suicidal ideation than EUC.

Limitations of the Current State of the
Science
Although the aforementioned RCTs represent important
first steps in gaining a deeper understanding of effective
suicide prevention strategies, several gaps and methodo-
logic concerns limit conclusions that can be drawn from
these studies. Several significant gaps in the literature
should be noted. First, given the paucity of RCTs powered
to detect deaths by suicide, it is unknown whether death
by suicide (rather than suicide attempts) can be prevented
by psychotherapy. Moreover, it is unclear as to whether
the reduction of suicide attempts or ideation via psycho-
therapy actually reduces deaths by suicide.
Second, many studies focused on suicide prevention

exclude patients at imminent risk for suicide, making it
impossible to determine whether interventions that are
efficacious for lower-risk patients are also efficacious for
those at highest risk.22 Third, there are limited psycho-
therapy RCTs focused on preventing suicide attempts for
many at-risk populations, including older adults; Veterans
or military service members; lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-
gender, queer, and two-spirit (LGBTQ2) populations;
Native Americans and other minority groups; and survi-
vors of suicide or suicide attempts. It is unclear whether the
results of existing RCTs generalize to these populations.
Additionally, the majority of psychotherapy interven-

tions for suicidal thoughts and behaviors have been
conducted in outpatient settings, and very few RCTs have
been conducted in acute care settings, such as emergency
departments, inpatient units, and crisis hotlines. The
development of interventions for these settings is partic-
ularly important given that many high-risk patients only
present to acute care services and never receive additional
psychosocial treatment. The dearth of knowledge about
effective treatments for inpatient settings is especially

September 2014

alarming given that the current standard of care is to admit
high-risk patients to inpatient units. This suggests that
patients who are at high risk for suicide may not receive
appropriate evidence-based treatments to prevent suicide.
A final gap in the extant research examining the

efficacy of psychotherapy interventions for suicide pre-
vention is the failure to replicate studies in which
treatments have been found to be efficacious. It is
especially critical that replication trials be conducted by
independent researchers, as in some cases replication
studies conducted outside of the original research groups
have failed to demonstrate the same beneficial effects.12

A variety of methodologic limitations of the existing
research hamper the ability to draw firm conclusions
regarding the effectiveness and generalizability of various
suicide prevention efforts (limitations have been pub-
lished elsewhere1–4). First, a lack of consensus regarding
terms and operationalized definitions used to describe
suicide, attempts, ideation, and other related behaviors
limits the ability to generalize across studies and replicate
findings. Researchers also often neglect to use reliable
and validated measures of suicidal ideation and behav-
iors, making it difficult to understand the specific
behaviors measured and targeted by the interventions
in question.
In addition, many previously published RCTs do not

provide detailed psychotherapy manuals. The absence of
treatment manuals creates significant challenges for dis-
semination and implementation efforts in the community
and precludes appropriate replication studies. Furthermore,
researchers often neglect to include measures assessing the
integrity of the study intervention. It is important to assess
the extent to which study therapists adhere to the theory
and practice of the intervention of interest.
An additional common methodologic problem is that

studies are underpowered to adequately detect treatment
effects, causing potentially efficacious treatments to yield
negative results owing to lack of power rather than lack of
efficacy. Moreover, very few studies include descriptions of
power analyses, making it difficult to determine the reasons
for failing to find positive effects. Other studies conduct
power analyses based on unlikely or biased estimates of
effects, leading to inadequate estimates of sample sizes.
Conservative estimates are necessary to ensure that sam-
ples are powered sufficiently to detect effects.
Given that RCTs are generally longitudinal, attrition is

common and results in an additional methodologic issue
of handling missing data. This is particularly problematic
when dropout rates differ across treatment conditions,
which may result in biased results.7 As recommended in
the CONSORT guidelines for reporting RCT results,
intention-to-treat analysis is a helpful statistical approach
to handling missing data to minimize bias.23

Brown and Jager-Hyman / Am J Prev Med 2014;47(3S2):S186–S194S192

Other methodologic limitations encountered in the
extant literature include potential threats to external
validity by choosing highly selective samples11; failure
to use blind investigators, assessors, or patients or specify
whether blinding was implemented; potential measure-
ment bias (e.g., using differential measurement intervals
and methods for assessing primary outcomes in inter-
vention and control groups10); failure to identify, meas-
ure, and control for potential non-study co-interventions
(e.g., pharmacotherapy); and analyses capitalizing on
differences in baseline characteristics.16

It is also advised that researchers focus on a priori
analyses and refrain from making firm conclusions on
the basis of unplanned, underpowered subgroup analy-
ses. Finally, stratified randomization is an important tool
in preventing Type I errors and imbalance between
treatment groups, particularly for smaller trials in which
known factors influence treatment responsiveness.

Next Steps and Breakthroughs Needed
Although the existing RCTs have created an important
jumping-off point for evaluating future psychotherapeutic
interventions for suicide attempts and ideation, much
work remains. The adoption of the following recommen-
dations may lead to increased methodologic rigor with
which suicide research is conducted, and in turn, the
development and dissemination of treatments that reduce
suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and ultimately, suicide.
Given that the current lack of consensus of terms and

definitions leads to difficulty in interpreting results and
aggregating findings across studies, an important short-
term goal is to adopt an agreed-upon nomenclature for
all studies addressing suicide-relevant thoughts and
behaviors, such as the self-directed violence nomencla-
ture proposed by the CDC’s National Center for Injury
Prevention and Control.24 It is then essential to employ
valid and reliable measures to assess these constructs.
The Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS25)

is one such measure endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration for use in pharmaceutical trials. It would
also be beneficial to use an agreed-upon measure for
psychotherapy trials. Furthermore, to achieve continuity
across studies, it would be helpful for all studies to use the
same endpoints in reporting outcomes, thereby increasing
the ease with which results can be aggregated across
studies via meta-analyses.
There is also a need for methods to address ambiguous

suicide behavior that may not neatly fit into a specific
category of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. One potential
solution to this problem is to form suicide adjudication
boards to review ambiguous behaviors and reach a
consensus regarding appropriate classification.26

An additional short-term goal is to develop interven-
tions designed for high-risk populations, including older
adults, Veterans or military service members, LGBTQ2
individuals, minority groups, and survivors of suicide or
suicide attempts as indicated by empirical research. There
is also a need for methods to screen and treat high-risk
individuals in acute care settings, including emergency
departments, crisis hotlines, and inpatient units.
As previously mentioned, many studies assessing the

efficacy of treatments for suicide prevention are under-
powered. Although preliminary studies to determine
acceptability and feasibility of specific interventions are
necessary, large-scale RCTs that are adequately powered
to detect treatment effects are also imperative. This is true
for studies assessing treatments focused on reducing
suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and other self-
directed violence, as well as those designed to evaluate
treatments for the prevention of deaths by suicide.
Because suicide is a low base rate behavior, very large

samples are required to conduct adequately powered
trials. Multi-site collaborations allow the collection of
data from large samples while reducing financial and
organizational burden on any one site. In addition, the
use of standardized outcome measures and data sharing
may facilitate meta-analytic approaches and circum-
vent problems associated with inadequately powered
studies.
Further development and dissemination of treatments

specifically targeting suicidal ideation are also necessary,
particularly for populations such as older men who have
the highest rates of suicide of any age group.27 Despite
their increased rate of deaths by suicide, older adults are
less likely to make suicide attempts than individuals in
any other age group.28 Suicidal ideation may thus serve as
the only warning sign of future suicides in older adults,
making it especially important to specifically target
suicidal ideation in this population. As frequent attempts
are less common in this population, treatments focused
on preventing attempts may be less appropriate.
Because suicidal ideation is a dimensional construct

that waxes and wanes over time, RCTs should include
appropriate measures for tracking fluctuations in suicidal
ideation. The use of ecological momentary assessment,
for example, would provide much-needed insight into
the fluctuation of suicidal ideation and inform the
development of timely interventions that specifically
target changes in suicidal ideation.
Very little is known about whether positive effects of

psychotherapies for suicide prevention extend beyond
laboratory settings. In addition to efficacy trials, effec-
tiveness trials are also needed to assess whether specific
treatments work in real-world settings. Moreover, in
order to increase external validity of psychotherapy trials,

www.ajpmonline.org

Brown and Jager-Hyman / Am J Prev Med 2014;47(3S2):S186–S194 S193

it is important that inclusion and exclusion criteria result
in samples that reflect patients as they present in the real
world (e.g., the exclusion of potential participants who do
not misuse substances may result in a biased sample of
suicide attempters10).
There is a need to better develop mechanisms to ensure

that the individuals at risk of suicide have access to
treatments that work. In designing interventions,
researchers should consider ways to increase the feasi-
bility and ease with which treatments can be disseminated
and adapted to various settings. For example, future
psychotherapies that can be implemented in rural settings
using telehealth technologies are needed.
In addition, researchers are encouraged to clearly

communicate the specific treatment components neces-
sary to successfully implement interventions in non-
laboratory settings. Another potential approach to
increasing the availability of evidence-based treatments
is to develop innovative electronic health interven-
tions (e.g., smartphone applications, texting, web-based
interventions, or chat rooms) as either widely available
stand-alone interventions or adjunctive treatments to
face-to-face interventions. Finally, further research is
needed to determine the cost-effectiveness and cost
utility of psychotherapy studies for suicide prevention.
As researchers continue to find support for treatments

that reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors, it is necessary
to identify potential mechanisms of actions that account for
therapeutic change. Thus, in addition to asking whether a
treatment works, it is essential to ask why a treatment
works. This can be achieved by including measures assess-
ing constructs underlying treatment effects, such as
improvements in hopelessness or emotion regulation.
Identifying mechanisms of action will allow for the

Figure 1. Proposed step-by-step research pathway for conductin
ED, emergency department; MH, mental health; PC, primary care; SDV, self

September 2014

development of more efficient, targeted treatments and
may provide insight into which treatments work best
for whom.
In addition to identifying treatments that are effective in

reducing suicide ideation and behaviors, it is also impor-
tant to understand which treatments have not garnered
support in psychotherapy trials. Systematic trial registra-
tion is one method for reducing the “file-drawer effect” in
which negative findings are not presented to the public.
Given the gaps and methodologic flaws in the literature

focused on psychotherapy interventions for suicide pre-
vention, additional research is needed to determine the
efficacy of existing and future treatments. Thus, we propose
a general step-by-step research pathway for conducting
future RCTs with high-risk patients for examining the
efficacy of new psychotherapy treatments (Figure 1).
The first step of this paradigm is to identify high-risk

subjects by using agreed-upon nomenclature (e.g., CDC
nomenclature) as well as validated and reliable assess-
ment measures. These high-risk patients can be recruited
from a variety of settings including emergency depart-
ments, inpatient units, mental health outpatient clinics,
and primary care. Following recruitment and initial
assessment to determine eligibility, it is recommended
that patients be randomly assigned to either (1) the
co-active intervention condition, which may include
medication, treatment as usual, a comparative therapy,
or follow-up services, or (2) the same co-active interven-
tion plus a suicide-specific study intervention condition.
Alternatively, depending on the question of interest, it

may be more appropriate to omit the co-active inter-
vention for participants who are randomized to the
suicide-specific study intervention condition. In order
to gain an understanding of the pathways by which

g RCTs
-directed violence; Ss, subjects

Brown and Jager-Hyman / Am J Prev Med 2014;47(3S2):S186–S194S194

treatment affects the outcome of interest (i.e., suicidal
ideation, suicide attempts, or suicides), it is imperative to
examine moderators of the study treatment and potential
mechanisms of actions. Elucidating the moderators and
mechanisms at play will inform the development of more
efficient and targeted future interventions. This paradigm
will also allow for increased understanding of the relation
between reductions in suicidal ideation and reductions in
suicide attempts or deaths by suicide.

Conclusions
Despite important advances in the development and
evaluation of psychotherapeutic treatments for suicide
prevention, additional research is needed to improve the
current state of the science. A focus on filling the gaps in
the literature and increasing methodologic rigor with
which RCTs of suicide-prevention psychotherapies are
conducted will lead to increasingly effective treatments
for reducing suicidal ideation, attempts, and deaths.

Publication of this article was supported by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of
Health Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the
National Institutes of Health Office of Disease Prevention.
This support was provided as part of the National Institute of
Mental Health-staffed Research Prioritization Task Force of
the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

No financial disclosures were reported by the authors of
this paper.

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  • Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Suicide Prevention
  • Introduction
    State of the Science of Evidence-Based Treatments for Suicide Prevention
    Limitations of the Current State of the Science
    Next Steps and Breakthroughs Needed
    Conclusions
    References

JHNEBP EVIDENCE RATING SCALES

© The Johns Hopkins Hospital/The Johns Hopkins University

SSTTRREENNGGTTHH of the Evidence
Level I Experimental study/randomized controlled trial (RCT) or meta analysis of RCT
Level II Quasi-experimental study
Level III Non-experimental study, qualitative study, or meta-synthesis.
Level IV Opinion of nationally recognized experts based on research evidence or expert

consensus panel (systematic review, clinical practice guidelines)
Level V Opinion of individual expert based on non-research evidence. (Includes case

studies; literature review; organizational experience e.g., quality improvement
and financial data; clinical expertise, or personal experience)

QQUUAALLIITTYY of the Evidence

A High

Research consistent results with sufficient sample size, adequate control, and definitive conclusions; consistent
recommendations based on extensive literature review that includes thoughtful reference to scientific
evidence.

Summative
reviews

well-defined, reproducible search strategies; consistent results with sufficient numbers of well defined
studies; criteria-based evaluation of overall scientific strength and quality of included studies; definitive
conclusions.

Organizational well-defined methods using a rigorous approach; consistent results with sufficient sample size; use of
reliable and valid measures

Expert Opinion expertise is clearly evident
B Good Research reasonably consistent results, sufficient sample size, some control, with fairly definitive conclusions;

reasonably consistent recommendations based on fairly comprehensive literature review that includes some
reference to scientific evidence

Summative
reviews

reasonably thorough and appropriate search; reasonably consistent results with sufficient numbers of well
defined studies; evaluation of strengths and limitations of included studies; fairly definitive conclusions.

Organizational Well-defined methods; reasonably consistent results with sufficient numbers; use of reliable and valid
measures; reasonably consistent recommendations

Expert Opinion expertise appears to be credible.
C Low quality

or major
flaws

Research little evidence with inconsistent results, insufficient sample size, conclusions cannot be drawn
Summative
reviews

, poorly defined, or limited search strategies; insufficient evidence with inconsistent results;
conclusions cannot be drawn

Organizational Undefined, or poorly defined methods; insufficient sample size; inconsistent results; , poorly
defined or measures that lack adequate reliability or validity

Expert Opinion expertise is not discernable or is dubious.
*A study rated an A would be of high quality, whereas, a study rated a C would have major flaws that raise serious questions about the
believability of the findings and should be automatically eliminated from consideration.

Newhouse R, Dearholt S, Poe S, Pugh LC, White K. The Johns Hopkins Nursing Evidence-based Practice Rating Scale. 2005. Baltimore, MD,

The Johns Hopkins Hospital; Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

COLLEGE OF NURSING

EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE ARTICLE REVIEW SUMMARY

INSIGHT BASED PSYCHOTHERAPY

RUBRIC

Utilizing evidence-based research in your psychotherapy implementation practice ensures that your patients receive the most effective care possible. Practitioners must review the research literature and identify insight based psychotherapeutic modalities that have been tested empirically, showing strong support for practice as compared to other methods. By providing the information below, you will begin to

1. Brief introduction inclusive of:

a. Title of article

b. Population therapy is indicated for

c. Age therapy is appropriate for

2. Provide:

a. A 500 word summary of the article in your own words.

b. Include provider training/certification specified for the psychotherapy

3. Rate and grade the article using an evidence-based rating/grading model (provided)

4. Apply rating and grading to:

Describe appropriate Nurse Practitioner incorporation into the practitioner’s psychotherapy practice

5. How has this article changed or supported your view of the particular psychotherapy and its appropriateness to practitioner’s psychotherapy practice?

6. How has this article changed or supported your view of the particular psychotherapy and its appropriateness to the provider’s psychotherapy practice?

7. APA formatting for sentence structure, grammar, and reference citation. Must cite the article in full, state entire title of article in the introductory paragraph, cite and state the evidence-based rating instrument in the assessment.

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