NYMC Faculty Publications

The Empowerment Plan: Enhancing the Safety Plan With a CBS Approach to Repertoire Expansion

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Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science

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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


Safety planning is an essential tool for helping those considering suicide stay safe, and it is best practice for assisting veterans who are in crisis. Further elaboration on this tool, as well as integration of empirically supported therapeutic interventions, may lead to greater engagement and possibility for change. Stanley and Brown's safety plan (2012) has been implemented in the Veterans Health Administration Medical Centers (VA) and is considered the standard of care for suicidal behavior in veterans, a population with a well-documented vulnerability to suicide. The unique characteristics of a CBS-informed safety plan (supplemented with components of Relational Frame Theory), or Empowerment Plan, is contrasted with Stanley and Brown's approach. Increasing specificity with RFT provides the clinician with sets of targeted interventions to empower the patient, providing the CBS therapist with skills to enhance safety planning. The goal is to identify multiple ways to amplify meaning and associated action into awareness, thus, connecting the veteran with reasons and motivation to live. The key elements of a transdiagnostic, process-focused approach to safety planning are delineated. A description for creating a CBS-informed single-session safety plan is provided.