Coaching the Suicidal Client

Disclaimer: I have NOT been certified by any organization to specifically deal with suicide. In this post, I am simply sharing my thoughts for discussion purposes, based on my certification methods, being applied to a suicidal client. Do NOT take these thoughts as “the way to coach suicidal clients” as there is no such thing. I in no way am endorsing that you follow this method in any way. Suicide is a very serious situation to be handled delicately. If you have contact with someone who claims to be suicidal, I would suggest you refer them to professional services unless you are 100% confident and equipped to continue with the coaching.


There’s no tiptoeing around the topic of suicide.  It might come up with your clients, and you have to be prepared to handle it.

New coaches sometimes hold themselves back because they don’t know what to say or do in certain circumstances – suicidal situations included.  Know that when you understand the processes in neuro-transformational coaching, you will be one step ahead of the client.  It’s important that you don’t compare yourself to other coaches.  If you have to compare, compare yourself to the client – not because you’re better than them, but because you’ve trained yourself as a coach who serve them.

So how can you serve someone who’s suicidal?

Say Suicide

When words and phrases are being used that identify suicide is being considered by a client, you have to call it out.  Often suicidal people don’t come right out and say they want to commit suicide or kill themselves.  Instead, they may beat around the bush and use phrases like, “not being here,” “going away for good,” “when it’s all over,” etc.   

As the coach, you must start using the word suicide and the phrase kill yourself, with rapport, so they know you hear them and understand the intensity of what they are talking about.  Armed with sensitivity, ask questions to determine the severity of the situation.  See if you can get their perspective on what suicide is, what it means to them, and even if they have made any plans.

The reality, I believe, is that no one wants to kill themselves, the just want the pain to stop.

Suicide comes up as a solution to stopping the pain when people feel hopeless and helpless and desperate.  So as a coach, you’ve got to figure out how to get the client to see hope, help and deliverance from the desperation.  That doesn’t mean you are saving them – you are trying to help them save themselves.

Identify the Issue

Now that you’ve established the severity of the situation, the first step is to help the client identify what the actual issue is; what’s causing them to feel hopeless, helpless and desperate.  This step follows the I.G.N.I.T.E. framework I’ve shared before (http://www.coachesupdate.com/i-g-n-i-t-e-coaching-framework/).  In this situation, you want to make sure to get through the entire framework before ending the session with the client.

Next would be to Get Leverage &  Permission.  Once you have permission to coach them around this, you want to create New Outcomes – and in this case, non-suicidal thoughts.  In order to get there, you have to help the client through some Inner Work.  Based on what the client identified as the issue that’s led to the suicidal thoughts, the inner work strategy can be determined.  After doing the inner work, it’s important to Test & Connect to make sure there’s been a significant shift.  Finally, you must Empower to Succeed – make sure the client has a plan following the coaching session to move forward with a purpose.

Example to Explain

Examples are the best tools to use to teach how to handle certain situations, and this situation is no exception.  Bear in mind that no two situations are alike, and must be handled according to the unique and specific circumstances you encounter.

In a recent conversation with a client, who mentioned feeling like she was “in a rut,” I engaged her with questions and heard her using passive phrases alluding to suicide, so I called her on it.  I already had rapport with this person, and I was on the phone with her, so I knew she wasn’t in danger of doing something drastic at that moment I mentioned it.

After the acknowledgement of the severity of the situation, we worked to identify the real issue.  In her situation, she was struggling with knowing she had internal value to offer, but not feeling like she was in the right environment to use that value.  She had done several things to try and find a suitable environment or organization to utilize her values, but felt none of them were bringing to fruition the “fit” she desired.  She was at a loss for what to do next, so that’s what had her feeling helpless and hopeless, and a little desperate.  

Once I received permission to coach her, I came up with an analogy in our conversation:  You’re not searching for who you are, or your puzzle piece, instead, you’re looking for the puzzle peace – what you experience when you find the right puzzle.  This analogy created an immediate mInd shift for her.  Based on her verbalized response, I know she was already in the new outcome we desired: no longer suicidal, and that she had already done the inner work and shifted when she heard and integrated that simple analogy with her situation.  (Note that this was a well-seasoned client, who had already done lots of inner work previously.)

We talked a bit further to test & make sure the suicidal feelings had left.  Now the most important piece was making sure she had a plan to help her move forward, one that would hopefully keep her from falling back into those harmful feelings.  This is where I walked her through the final part of the I.G.N.I.T.E. framework, Empower to Succeed.

Since she was having difficulty finding an organization right for her, we discussed that  until she finds it, something will feel “off” unless she controls her feelings  Thus, we talked about her ability to find joy in any environment, and that begins with finding the joy within.  

Parting Thoughts

In the example I shared with my client, everything boiled down to controlling her feelings.  This is the reality – we all control our experience of the world.  What we experience is always within us.  We can be in a poisonous environment and still find joy.  We can be in a turbulent environment and find stability within.  It’s not always easy, but it is always possible.

The key to the coaching session with a suicidal client was diving in and exploring elements of depression and it’s ingredients.  The coaching was about fostering conversation.  Neuro-transformational Coaching is about the willingness and ability to ask questions to explore what’s going on so people can untie their own knots, no matter how deep or how tightly they are tied.  When people speak for themselves, they can reframe stories, dislodge feelings in their body, and empower their environments.

Whether you are already an established coach or want to become a coach, we can help you feel comfortable working with all types of clients and situations.  Schedule a personal one-on-one call to find out what the next steps would be for you.  Simply visit https://calendly.com/ecu/elitecoachinguniversity-eccp/ to get your complimentary session now, or email info@CoachSeanSmith.com.

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