If You Kill Yourself, Don’t Make a Mess: Paradoxical Intention with a Suicidal Client

If You Kill Yourself, Don’t Make a Mess: Paradoxical Intention with a Suicidal Client

by Dan Williams

In this raw but compelling clinical vignette, therapist Dan Williams uses paradoxical intention in an all-out effort to save his client from committing suicide.

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"Maybe I was happy for like a day or two”

Marcus once told me he has no memory of what it feels like to not suffer. You’re exaggerating, I told him. He insisted he wasn’t. You are, I fought back. Everyone has such a memory, at least one. Marcus concedes little.

“Well, maybe I was happy for like a day or two.”
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Dan WilliamsDan Williams is a psychotherapist and performance consultant practicing in the Boston area. He is also a writer. Aside from writing many essays and scholarly articles, he is the author of one book, Executing Justice: An Inside Account of the Case of Mumia Abu Jamal, and is nearing completion of another, The Storm and The Whisper. Before becoming a psychotherapist, Dan was a courtroom lawyer, specializing in capital punishment, and then a law professor, teaching at Northeastern and Harvard University. He is an ardent Zen practitioner.
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Illustrate Viktor Frankl's theory of paradoxical intention
  • Understand how Williams' seeming light-hearted approach is paradoxically therapeutic
  • Describe some common characteristics of chronically suicidal clients
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