Why do people die by suicide? Dr. Thomas Joiner and his colleagues attempt to answer this age-old question by exploring two obvious yet insightful assumptions:

  • People die by suicide because they can—that is, they become desensitized to pain and habituated toward violence.
  • People die by suicide because they want to—they typically have no sense of belonging to a valued group or relationship, and they feel that they have become a burden to loved ones.

This book offers a new theoretical framework for diagnosis and risk-assessment of a patient's entry into the dark and obscure mental world of suicidality, and for the creation of preventive and public-health campaigns aimed at the disorder. More important, though, the book provides new, effective clinical guidelines for crisis intervention and for therapeutic alliances in psychotherapy and suicide prevention.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Exhibits


Introduction: The Interpersonal Theory of Suicidal Behavior—Concepts and Evidence

  1. Diagnoses Associated with Suicide
  2. Risk Assessment
  3. Crisis Intervention
  4. Treatment
  5. The Therapeutic Relationship
  6. Prevention and Public Health Campaigns

Conclusion: The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide's Role in Facilitating Hope


Author Index

Subject Index

About the Authors

Author Bios

Thomas E. Joiner Jr., PhD, attended Princeton University and received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a distinguished research professor, the Bright-Burton Professor of Psychology, and the director of the University Psychology Clinic, in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Dr. Joiner's work is on the psychology, neurobiology, and treatment of suicidal behavior, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

An author or coauthor of more than 375 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Joiner was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and received the Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Shakow Award for Early Career Achievement from APA's Division 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology), the Shneidman Award for excellence in suicide research from the American Association of Suicidology, and APA's Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions, as well as research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and various foundations.

He is the editor of APA's Clinician's Research Digest and of the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology. He is author or coauthor of 13 books, including Why People Die By Suicide (2005).

Kimberly A. Van Orden, MS, is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee; her major professor is Thomas E. Joiner, Jr. She completed her undergraduate studies at Columbia University. Her research interests are in the translation of basic research on etiological factors for dysregulated behavior in general—and suicidal behavior in particular—to the design of suicide risk assessment protocols and the investigation of mechanisms of change in treatments for suicidal behavior.

Ms. Van Orden has coauthored 18 peer-reviewed publications and is a frequent presenter at professional conferences. She received the American Association of Suicidology's Student Research Award in 2008, the Belfer-Aptman Dissertation Research Award from the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, and a Scholar Award from P.E.O. International.

Tracy K. Witte, MS, is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, under the mentorship of Thomas E. Joiner, Jr. She is an alumna of The Ohio State University, from which she graduated summa cum laude with distinction in psychology and with honors in the Arts and Sciences, earning a BS in psychology. Ms. Witte's primary area of research interest is in suicidal behavior and its correlates; in particular, she is interested in studying individual differences that predict acquiring the capability for suicide.

She is the coauthor of 16 peer-reviewed journal articles on the topic of suicidal behavior, as well as several book chapters. Ms. Witte was awarded a Florida State University Presidential Fellowship in 2004 and a 3-year Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award fellowship in 2006 through the National Institute of Mental Health.

M. David Rudd, PhD, ABPP, is professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, with an adjunct appointment as professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He also maintains a part-time private practice in clinical psychology. His undergraduate degree is from Princeton University. He completed his doctoral training at the University of Texas at Austin and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cognitive therapy at the Beck Institute in Philadelphia under the direction of Aaron T. Beck.

He is a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and a fellow of three professional societies, including the American Psychological Association's (APA's) Divisions 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology) and 29 (Psychotherapy), the International Association of Suicide Research, and the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He was recently elected a distinguished practitioner and scholar of the National Academies of Practice in Psychology.

In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Rudd is an active researcher with more than 150 publications. He is the recipient of the Edwin Shneidman Award from the American Association of Suicidology, the Outstanding Contribution to Science Award from the Texas Psychological Association, and the Aleteia Award from the Aleteia International School of Cognitive Therapy in Italy. He was awarded the first-ever American Association of Suicidology Exceptional Leadership Award in 2005. In 2007, he received APA's Karl F. Heiser Presidential Award for Advocacy. Dr. Rudd was recently elected as the Texas Psychological Association's representative to the APA Council of Representatives.