Suicide Training for Individual Mental Health Professionals

CAMS IS A flexible clinical framework

CAMS is not a new psychotherapy. It is a flexible therapeutic framework that is guided by a mult-purpose clinical tool called the “Suicide Status Form” (SSF) which guides the patient’s treatment and includes:

  1.  suicide-specific assessment,
  2. suicide-specific treatment planning,
  3. tracking of on-going risk, and
  4. clinical outcomes and dispositions.

As stated previously, collaboration is the essential, and perhaps the most important ingredient to successful CAMS-guided clinical care. CAMS is a clinical philosophy that emphasizes collaboration and empathy for the patient’s suicidal state in the pursuit of suicide-specific interventions. CAMS is designed to enhance the therapeutic alliance and increase motivation in the patient in a joint effort to effectively target and treat the patient’s suicidal risk.

CAMS has been primarily used with suicidal adults, but there is increasing use with suicidal adolescents and even children as young 5 years old. CAMS has been successfully used with patients across clinical diagnoses, including certain patients with psychotic disorders.

Clinicians and patients report a positive experience using CAMS and find that the flexibile framework makes it possible to incorporate a range of treatment modalities. Clinicians may easily obtain training in CAMS through our learning path for individual clinicians.

 

Training IN CAMS for INdividuals

Our recommended learning path for individuals is designed to increase your confidence in the treatment of suicidal patients.

We encourage you to:

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why is CAMS the best choice for suicide prevention?
CAMS stands for the “Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality” (CAMS). CAMS is first and foremost a clinical philosophy of care. It is a therapeutic framework for suicide-specific assessment and treatment of a patient’s suicidal risk. It is a flexible approach that can be used across theoretical orientations and disciplines for a wide range of suicidal patients across treatment settings and different treatment modalities.

I am a child and adolescent therapist, can I use CAMS with children and adolescents?
Yes, adaptations of CAMS have been used with suicidal teens and children. There are preliminary data showing the promise of the CAMS and the SSF with suicidal teens and we are pursuing clinical trial research with these populations. The evidence base to date in support of CAMS is primarily based on adult samples but on-going and future research should help provide additional support for using CAMS with young people. It should be noted that working with suicidal children may require a slower pace and the use of breaks in the course of using CAMS. SSF constructs can be explained to children in an effort to create mutual understanding. Current research has shown the teens do not prefer a modified version of the SSF which means the clinician and patient can work together to come to shared understandings of CAMS-related terms.

Many of my patients have personality disorders, may I use CAMS with them?
From a research perspective, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is undoubtedly the best proven intervention for personality disordered suicidal patients. Nevertheless, CAMS was equally effective to DBT in a recent Danish study in terms of decreasing suicide attempts and self-harm behaviors. In a sub-sample from this study 38% of borderline suicide attempters did extremely well at one year follow-up based only on 8-10 sessions of CAMS.

Should you use CAMS with someone who has made an attempt but is no longer actively suicidal?
This can be done at the discretion of the clinical dyad. One can initiate the use of CAMS and discontinue if it does not seem relevant or appropriate. We have seen interesting “prophylactic” uses of CAMS in situations where a patient in tremendous distress who might become suicidal benefits from the development of the CAMS Stabilization Plan and the identification of potential suicidal drivers.
What are the minimum requirements for patients to be effectively engaged in CAMS (i.e. can you use CAMS with patients who have intellectual disabilities/reading or writing difficulties/psychosis/substance abuse issues?)
It is up to the dyad, but we have seen highly effective cases of using CAMS with psychotic patients, patients with developmental delays, and suicidal children as young as 5 years old. CAMS is a flexible framework that can be done at a slower pace or with any needed explanation and clarification of the key constructs. One can always try CAMS and if it seems inappropriate or not helpful simply phase out its use switching to other therapeutic approaches.
Can I use CAMS with patients with non-suicidal self-injury?
CAMS is designed to treat suicidal risk; it is a suicide-specific intervention. Nevertheless, there is evidence from a randomized controlled trial that 8-10 sessions of CAMS was effective for reducing self-harm behavior in a sample of 54 borderline suicide attempters and was in fact quite comparable to Dialectical Behavior Therapy at 28 weeks follow up.

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