Treating Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in Substance Abuse Treatment

By Jennifer Kolb, LCSW
Target Audience: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Delivery Method: Online, Self-Paced
Credits: 7 CE Credit Hours


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Jennifer Kolb, LCSW; Social Work Consultant, reviewed and determined the course meets requirements for continuing education in the field of social work. This course is appropriate for masters and clinical level social workers. Jennifer graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She specializes in school-based psychotherapy with children and adolescents, as well as licensing exam coaching and preparation. 

Content By
: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Addressing Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 50. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15­4381. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2009.

Course Description:

This publication provides guidelines to help substance abuse treatment counselors work with suicidal adult clients. It covers risk factors and warning signs for suicide, core counselor competencies, clinical vignettes, and information for administrators and clinical supervisors.
Learning Objectives:
  1. Assess suggestions for addressing suicidal thoughts and behaviors, along with points to keep therapists on track and positive attitudes and behaviors that will help therapists provide services to clients who are suicidal
  2. Assess background information about suicide and substance use disorders, including risk factors and warning signs for suicide
  3. Delineate a four-step process for addressing suicidal thoughts and behaviors in substance abuse treatment, summarized by the acronym GATE (Gather information, Access supervision, Take responsible action, and Extend the action)
  4. Summarize a set of competencies counselors should incorporate to work effectively with clients who are suicidal
  5. Summarize vignettes of counseling sessions with clients who have suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  6. Assess master clinician notes and comments that help therapists understand the client, his or her issues related to suicide, and approaches therapists can take in their counseling work with clients with suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  7. Delineate benefits of addressing suicidality in substance abuse treatment programs
  8. Assess different levels of program involvement in addressing the needs of substance abuse clients with suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  9. Assess legal and ethical issues for consideration in managing and providing treatment to clients with suicidal thoughts and behaviors 

1.    Background Information – Link between Substance Abuse and Suicidality
     a.    Introduce GATE model
     b.    Competencies for addressing suicidal thoughts and behaviors with clients in substance abuse treatment
2.    Application of GATE model in substance abuse treatment settings
     a.    Six clinical vignettes
3.    Administrative response to suicidality in substance abuse treatment settings
     a.    Benefits of addressing suicidality
     b.    Should administrators be involved in clinical issues?
     c.    Level of program involvement
     d.    Role of administrators and mid-level staff in implementing programs
     e.    Legal and ethical issues in addressing suicidality in substance abuse programs
4.    Building a suicide prevention- and intervention-capable agency
     a.    Organizational assessment
     b.    Organizational planning
     c.    Program implementation
     d.    Helping your program improve capabilities in working with clients who are suicidal
     e.    Helping your agency develop and improve its response to suicidal crises

Course Format:

Course materials can be downloaded or read online. To receive a certificate of completion, you must complete a multiple-choice post-test with a score of 75% or better and complete a course evaluation. 


  • Academic Review is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Academic Review maintains responsibility for this program and its contents.
  • Academic Review, #1145, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. Academic Review maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 1/10/2017 – 1/10/2020. Social workers completing this course receive seven hours continuing education credits. 

Continuing Education licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not always well defined and may even supersede the rules of a national accreditation organization. We recommend you contact the applicable state licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest regulations and specific requirements of your state when considering our programs for Continuing Education credit.

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