Clinical mental health professionals are expected to meet a standard of care in assessing risk for suicide in a patient. There is much in the literature regarding risk factors associated with suicide and suicidal behavior, but little to nothing about how t apply these risk factors to formulate a level of risk judgment that reasonably addresses the foreseeability of suicide. This presentation will address this problem from a best practice perspective offering empirically testable propositions to guide and train clinicians in this most formidable of tasks.


Alan L. Berman (Lanny) , Ph.D., ABPP

Dr. Berman is Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). He is a Past-President of the AAS (1984-1985) and their 1982 Shneidman Award recipient (for Outstanding Contributions in Research in Suicidology). In April, 2006 Dr. Berman received the AAS’s Louis I. Dublin Award for outstanding service and contributions to the field of suicide prevention.

Dr. Berman holds a B.A. degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America. From 1969 to 1991 he taught at the American University where he attained the rank of tenured full professor. In 1991 Dr. Berman changed his appointment to that of Distinguished Adjunct Professor when he was named Director of the newly established National Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide at the Washington School of Psychiatry, a position he held until accepting his current role with the AAS in January, 1995.

A Diplomate in Clinical Psychology (American Board of Professional Psychology) and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Berman maintains a part-time private practice of psychotherapy and psychological consultation in Washington, D.C. He has published over 100 professional articles and book chapters. From 1990-1994, he served as Case Consultation Editor of the journal Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior (SLTB). In 1994 Dr. Berman was elected Editor of SLTB; however, he resigned this position when he was chosen as the AAS’s Executive Director. He remains a consulting editor to SLTB and two other journals. He is a Fellow of the International Academy of Suicide Research. Between 1999 and 2002 Dr. Berman served as 1st Vice President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP); from 2003-2005 he served as the elected Treasurer of IASP. In September, 2009, he was elected to a 2-year term as President of IASP. He served as the President of Section (VII) of Behavioral Emergencies of the Division of Clinical Psychology (Div. 12) of the American Psychological Association in 2004.

Dr. Berman appears frequently on both national and local media. He has appeared on The Today Show (2x), Good Morning America, Hour Magazine, and The Larry King Show.

He has testified on Capitol Hill three times: on suicide among Vietnam combat veterans, on teenage suicide, and on the U.S.S. Iowa explosion. In 1996 he was appointed Consultant to the Office of Independent Counsel to investigate and finalize their report on the 1993 death of White House Counsel Vincent Foster, Jr.

He served on the HHS Federal Task Force on Youth Suicide Prevention (1985-6) and was an initiating member of the Centers for Disease Control sponsored "Working Group" on the operational criteria for the classification of suicide and the NIMH sponsored conference on developing a nomenclature for suicide morbidity.

He frequently is asked to serve as an expert witness in legal cases involving suicide malpractice and wrongful death and has a national reputation as a teacher and professional workshop leader on the topics of suicide and youth suicide (assessment and intervention). In 2009, he was Board Certified in Forensic Suicidology by the American Association of Suicidology.

Dr. Berman has edited (1) Suicide Prevention: Case Consultations (1990), N.Y.: Springer; is the senior author of (2) Adolescent Suicide: Assessment and Intervention (1991), Wash., D.C.: American Psychological Association (David Jobes, co-author). [The 2nd Edition of Adolescent Suicide: Assessment and Intervention was published by the APA in 2005 with Morton Silverman as a 3rd author]; and co-edited: (with Drs. Ronald Maris, John Maltsberger, and Robert Yufit) (3) Assessment and Prediction of Suicide (1992, NY: Guilford Press), (4) Suicidology: Essays in Honor of Edwin S. Shneidman (1995: with Drs. Antoon Leenaars, Pamela Cantor, Ron Maris, and Robert Litman), (5) Risk Management with Suicidal Patients (1998: NY: Guilford; with Drs. Bruce Bongar, Ron Maris, Morton Silverman, Erik Harris, and Wendy Packman); is co-author of (6) andThe Comprehensive Textbook of Suicidology and Suicide Prevention (2000: NY: Guilford; with Drs. Ronald Maris and Morton Silverman. He currently is co-editing (with Maurizio Pompili, MD) a book on Medical Conditions Associated with Suicide Risk.