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Behavioral Emergencies Update

In this issue...

The 109th Annual APA Convention


Awards Presented

Minutes from the Section 7 Business Meeting

Helping Youth Cope with Terrorism

Task Force Update

Graduate Student Spotlight

Publication Highlights

Special Offer for Section VII Members




By Phillip M. Kleespies, Ph.D.
Past President and Task Force Chair

     Although I have not reported on this topic in a while, our efforts to advocate for improved graduate education and training in the evaluation and management of behavioral emergencies are alive and well. Our Task Force Report on Education and Training was submitted to the APA Board of Educational Affairs (BEA), the APA Committee on Accreditation (COA), and the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). It was positively received by all three of these groups, and APPIC published an abridged version of the Report in their July, 2000, newsletter.

The position of the Task Force and Section VII has been that all psychology clinicians and counselors need training in this area of practice since all should be prepared to deal with the life-threatening emergencies that can arise in professional work with emotionally disturbed clients or patients. Our Task Force Report details the deficiencies of our current educational system in uniformly preparing psychology practitioners to evaluate and manage clients or patients who may become suicidal, potentially violent to others, or vulnerable to interpersonal victimization.

In this regard, it is worthy of note that the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. David Satcher, in his recently published report "National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action" (2001), has commented that "many mental health professionals are not adequately trained to provide proper assessment, treatment, and management of suicidal patients and clients" (p. 79). The report has made Objective 6.3 to read as follows:

By 2005, increase the proportion of clinical social work, counseling, and psychology graduate programs that include training in the assessment and management of suicide risk, and the identification and promotion of protective factors (p. 82).

We fully agree with the Surgeon General's objective, but would extend it to education and training in the evaluation and management of the potentially violent patient as well as to those who are vulnerable to victimization.

Through our contacts with the BEA and the COA, we have been advised that in order to achieve our objective, we will need to advocate not only with the relevant APA organizational groups, but also with the influential and APA-affiliated Training Councils such as the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP), the National Council of Schools of Professional Psychology (NCSPP), the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs (CCPTP), the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs (CDSPP), etc. To this end, members of the Section VII Board began discussions with representatives of CUDCP and NCSPP at the recent APA Convention in San Francisco.

Our advocacy efforts were well received by the leadership of both of the above organizations. NCSPP has circulated our abridged Task Force Report to all of its member programs. The leadership of CUDCP has suggested that CUDCP might pass a resolution affirming the importance of education in behavioral emergencies and encouraging member programs to provide appropriate training. It is hoped that NCSPP will also consider such a resolution. Supportive statements from such important educational councils inform those who develop training standards in APA (e.g., the COA) about what training and education is considered essential by graduate programs.

Reactions to our agenda for education and training have been uniformly positive. We need to deliver our message to all of the concerned parties and elicit their cooperation in making it a standard that practitioners obtain training in this crucial area of practice. With your support, I look forward to the continued pursuit of this goal as your Task Force Chair.

Please Note: Dr. Bob Yufit is developing an informational brochure on the handling of behavioral crises, especially with suicidal and violent individuals. He would welcome any feedback from members who may have developed such brochures on their own, or are aware of any such brochures developed by others. If you have information to share, please contact him at