A randomized control study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to be effective in reducing the number of repeat suicide attempts in adults.
Past research had focused on intensive follow-up treatment or intensive case management, interpersonal psychotherapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy for the preventative treatment of suicide attempts, but empirical evidence for the efficacy of these therapies has been limited. The current study aimed to examine the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy as a preventative therapy for suicide, by performing a randomized control study adequate in power to detect treatment differences.
Participants consisted of patients who had attempted suicide and received a medical or psychological evaluation within 48 hours of the attempt. Participants were randomly assigned to follow-up care of either CBT or usual care (UC). Those placed in the CBT group received outpatient CBT sessions that were specifically designed for preventing future suicide attempts. The CBT aimed to address and identify the thoughts, images, and core beliefs that activated the previous suicide attempt, and to teach cognitive and behavioral strategies as better ways of coping with these thoughts and stressors.
The authors found that participants in the CBT group were 50% less likely to reattempt suicide than the participants in the UC group. In addition, the CBT group measured significantly lower for depression as well as hopelessness than the UC group. The authors concluded that “the short-term feature of cognitive therapy would make it particularly applicable for the treatment of suicide attempters at community mental health centers, which typically provide relatively short-term therapy.”
Reference: Brown, G. K, Have, T. T., Henriques, G. R., Xie, S. X., Hollander, J. E., & Beck, A. T. (2005). Cognitive therapy for the prevention of suicide attempts: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 294, 563-570