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It's a Wonderful Life: The George Bailey family

Law & Ethics 9:

Suicide and the Soul

A six-hour course with Jonathan Young and Anne Bach

Course Description

When the pain of life becomes overwhelming, thoughts of ending the suffering can rise. This is one of the most challenging situations in the work of anyone in a helping profession. Any possibility that a client might be considering taking their life mobilizes all of our skills. This day, our ninth seminar on Law and Ethics is on how to evaluate the risk and reduce the possibility of self-destruction.

We will discuss the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, and other stories, to explore the underlying crisis of meaning that can lead to dire thoughts. Mythic lore contains guidance and support for the rough parts of the journey. The dark night of the soul is a particularly difficult element of the quest. In times of trouble, it may genuinely seem like life should end. This can be a problem of overly literal thinking. Death and rebirth are supposed to be symbolic. Such confusion can be addressed in treatment. In the long view, we are all meant to find resilience and make it through the daunting hurdles of our stories.

This day meets the new mandate that all psychologists complete six hours of training in suicide assessment and intervention. Topics include risk factors, crisis management, treatment decisions, legal procedures and ethical issues.

Learning Objectives

Participants completing this seminar will be able to:

  • Identify people at risk

  • Detect warning signs

  • Conduct threat assessments

  • Address underlying issues

  • Clarify symbolic elements

  • Fulfill legal and ethical requirements

Who will benefit?

This seminar is designed to advance the skills of practicing doctoral-level psychologists. Presentations cover essential methods of assessing suicide risk and strategies to reduce the dangers of suicidal thoughts. Updates to Law and Ethics requirements are also reviewed. The day is also useful to other mental health clinicians and to certain helping professions, such as physicians, clergy, and educators who might have to deal with someone considering taking their own life.

CE Credit Information

The material is presented at an introductory level for psychologists, requiring no background in mythic studies, narrative theory, or Jungian psychology. No advance preparation is necessary. However, participants are provided with a recommended reading list as part of their class materials.

The following CE credits are available:

  • Psychology, MFT, LCSW, NBCC : 6 CE hours

  • Nursing : 7 hours

This course meets:

  • Six Law and Ethics hours for Psychologists, MFTs, LPCCs, and LCSWs

How to Register

  1. Select a seminar location from the Current Seminar Dates and Locations

  2. Register online or call the Center


Jonathan Young, PhD is a psychologist (PSY10231) who consults with organizational leaders and arts professionals. He teaches at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, where he created and chaired the unique doctoral level department of mythological studies. His books and articles focus on personal mythology. His background includes assisting mythologist Joseph Campbell at seminars and serving as founding curator of the Joseph Campbell Archives and Library. Dr Young is contributing producer and featured commentator on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens television series.

Anne Bach, M.S., MFT 38891 is a specialist in uses of writing in psychotherapy. She gives presentations on creativity as inner work at major conferences, and lectures widely on psychological dimensions of expressive writing. Her clinical background includes poetry therapy with seriously mentally ill patients.

Other presentations on Mythic Stories

Dr. Young also gives frequent media interviews, public talks, workshops, and in-service trainings throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Day Schedule

Checking-in begins at 9:30 a.m. - Seminar 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

9:30 Check-in begins.

10:00 A life-story becomes discouraging:

- The psychodynamics of suicidal ideation

11:15 - Break (approximate time)

11:30 Unconscious aspects of self-destructive impulses

- Thoughts of death as symbolic

12:30 - Lunch Break

- On your own, please return on time

1:30 Using reflective practices

- Writing as intervention and self-care

2:30 - Break (approximate time)

2:40 Legal and ethical responsibilities

3:50 - Break (approximate time)

4:00 Recovering from client suicide

5:00 Course concludes - Be sure to sign out

It's a Wonderful Life: George Bailey and Clarence Odbody

Selections from the Reading List

Becker, Christina (2004) The Heart of the Matter: Individuation as an Ethical Process. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications

Beebe, John (1992) Integrity in Depth. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press

Frankl, Viktor (2004) The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy. Vintage; 3rd edition (October 12, 1986)

Guggenbuhl-Craig, Adolf (2000) Power in the Helping Professions. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications

Hillman, James (1997) Suicide and the Soul. Spring Publications,U.S.; New edition edition (1997-04-01) (1800)

Hollis, James (2008) Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves New York: Avery

Neumann, Erich. (1969) Depth Psychology and a New Ethic. New York: Harper

Pipher, Mary (2003) Letters to a Young Therapist (Art of Mentoring) New York: Basic Books

Young, Jonathan (1996) Saga - Best New Writings on Mythology Vol. 1. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press

Young, Jonathan (2000) Saga - Best New Writings on Mythology Vol. 2. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press