Operationalizing the Assessment and Management of Violence Risk in the Short-term


Dr Michael Doyle, Clinical Researcher & MSc Programme Director, Centre for Mental Health & Risk, University of Manchester, Room 2.311 Jean McFarlane Building, University Place, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. E-mail: Michael.doyle@manchester.ac.uk


Assessing risk of violence in the short term is crucial for managing and preventing violence, especially in institutions such as psychiatric units and prisons. Despite a lack of consensus on the definition of “short term”, a number of recent tools and guidelines have been developed to aid short-term clinical decision-making. Whereas the supporting evidence for the new tools is impressive, limitations remain in terms of the focus on prediction, limited consideration of strengths, and poor integration with formulation and risk management. The Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START) is a brief clinical guide for the dynamic assessment of risks, strengths and treatability. It focuses on short-term risks and the characteristics of the individual that, if changed, might lead to an increase or decrease in risk. The START has the potential to operationalize the structured professional judgment (SPJ) approach in order to inform the evaluation of multiple risk domains relevant to everyday psychiatric clinical practice. However, explicit guidance on integrating risk assessment, formulation and management is limited in the START and this paper describes the SPJ approach, reviews recent developments in approaches to risk, and considers how the START can be used to inform SPJ approaches and link risk assessment, formulation, and management. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.