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Keywords:

  • adolescence;
  • assessment;
  • family therapy;
  • mental health

ABSTRACT

Engaging caregivers is an essential component of service for at-risk youth. Engagement has been described as specific behaviours (e.g. treatment participation) and attitudes (e.g. therapeutic alliance). Although best practices for working with suicidal youth includes involving parents in the assessment and crisis plan, there has been almost no research on the process that clinicians in outpatient settings use to engage parents of youth who exhibit risk for suicide. The purpose of this study was to document how clinicians in outpatient mental-health settings engaged parents following a youth suicide assessment. Twenty-four clinicians from the rural Midwestern USA took part in two focus groups to discuss typical interactions with parents following a suicide assessment. Analyses suggested that clinicians' engagement with parents included five major elements: (i) presenting difficult information; (ii) responding to parents' reactions; (iii) joining with parents; (iv) moving the parents towards concrete actions; and (v) addressing rural gun culture. The results are discussed within the context of Staudt's conceptual framework of engagement with caregivers of at-risk children. Implications for practice and research are discussed.