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Online Learning

High Risk Clients: Effectively Handle Five of the Most Critical Scenarios You’ll Face as a Clinician

Credit Available - See CEUs tab below.

Suicide and Self-Harm
Paul Brasler, MA, LCSW
6 Hours 14 Minutes
Audio and Video
Original Program Date:
Apr 18, 2018
Media Type:
Online Learning


Crises are never scheduled, convenient or easy. But they do happen and you will face them. Clients at risk for crisis often present with so many symptoms and issues, it’s hard to know where to start. Many clinicians, anxious about how to proceed, often miss or avoid asking the right questions to effectively intervene and keep clients (and themselves) safe.

As a clinician, have you ever felt:

  • Worried about the safety of your clients, even feared for their lives, but felt unprepared to handle the situation?
  • Unsafe in the clinical environment, or unsure of how to handle situations where someone connected to your client might be in danger?
  • Caught off guard when you’re wrapping up a session and a client discloses suicidal thoughts?
  • Unsure if a client was using drugs, and ill equipped to identify the signs and symptoms of drug abuse?
  • Concerned that you’re doing more harm than good for traumatized clients, despite your best intentions?

In this recording, Paul Brasler, LCSW, navigates you through five of the most difficult scenarios in mental health today. Through real-life examples and live role plays, Paul will share the concrete strategies that he’s used over the last two decades to safely and effectively intervene in the challenging, urgent, and sometimes alarming situations that mental health professionals face. Full of practical tools and tips, this recording will teach you to how to make crises situations more manageable, overcome your worries, and improve your readiness to handle mental health emergencies related to suicide, violence, substance abuse, trauma, and medical issues.

Better still, instruction on professional liability management techniques, tips for documentation, and detailed reproducible assessment forms will have you feeling confident that you can focus on doing what’s best for your clients without fear of litigation. And, Paul’s guidance is applicable to your work regardless of your setting or clinical background.

You'll be left feeling equipped to help your most vulnerable clients with the real-life skills and knowledge they don’t teach in graduate school!


General Credits

This course is available for 6.25 total CPDs

The HPCSA has declared that any on-line courses CPD/CEU credited by a certified US board, is automatically CPD/CEU credited in South Africa. 

As there are different boards for different disciplines, we at Acacia suggest that you use the Counselling CPD/CEU credits. These correspond to South African credits of one CPD/CEU per 60 minutes. If you choose to use your discipline's credits, please do so at your discretion.

Florida Social Workers

PESI, Inc. is an approved provider with the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. Provider Number 50-399. This self-study course qualifies for 6.25 continuing education credits. 



Paul Brasler, MA, LCSW's Profile

Paul Brasler, MA, LCSW Related seminars and products

Paul Brasler, MA, LCSW, has worked in the social work field for the past 22 years. He is the head of behavioral health for Daily Planet Health Services, a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides comprehensive and integrated healthcare and mental health services (including medication-assisted opioid treatment). Paul is also president of Providence Consulting & Education L.L.C., through which he provides clinical supervision and professional education services.

Paul has extensive experience in working with people with substance use disorders. After finishing school, Paul went to work at an adolescent residential treatment program, where he developed a treatment track for adolescents with substance use disorders. In 2003, he became a senior clinician in the Chesterfield County Juvenile Drug Court and provided individual, family, adolescent group and multifamily group therapies. After working at the drug court for seven years, Paul moved on to conduct psychiatric and substance misuse evaluations in emergency departments in the Greater Richmond, Virginia area. Paul has also served as adjunct faculty in the school of social work at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he developed a graduate course in substance abuse treatment.

Paul has been a PESI presenter since 2016, and he has presented classes on mental health emergencies and high-risk clients across the country. He recently released his first book, High-Risk Clients: Evidence-Based Assessment & Clinical Tools to Recognize and Effectively Respond to Mental Health Crises (PESI Publishing 2019).


Speaker Disclosures:

Financial: Paul Brasler has employment relationships with the Department of Medical Assistance Services and the Bon Secours Mercy Health System. He is the President of Providence Consulting & Education, LLC. He receives a speaking honorarium and royalties from PESI, Inc. He has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.

Non-financial: Paul Brasler has no relevant non-financial relationships.

Additional Info

Program Information

Access for Self-Study (Non-Interactive)

Access never expires for this product.

Target Audience

Counselors, Social Workers, Psychologists, Case Managers, Addiction Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and other Mental Health Providers


  • Client Assessment: Ask the Right Questions
    • Conduct comprehensive assessments
      • Mini mental status exam
      • Lethality assessment: Suicide and homicide
      • Substance use assessment
      • Trauma assessment
    • Tips and strategies for eliciting the right information
  • The Suicidal Client: More than 13 Reasons Why
    • High-risk populations—who is most at risk?
    • Implicit and explicit expressions of suicidal ideation and intent
    • Self-injurious behavior and suicidal ideation
    • Suicide assessment and interviews: Ideation, plans, means, intent
    • What do I do now? —Disposition & safety planning
      • Why “No-Harm Contracts” are harmful
      • Breaking client confidentiality
      • When in doubt, do what?
    • Hospitalization process
    • After the ER: When clients are not admitted
    • Case studies:
      • Michelle—Teenagers experiencing suicidal ideation
      • William—The intersection of substance use, mental illness and suicidality
  • The Violent Client: Manage Dangerous Situations
    • Dealing with our fears: Clinicians’ safety concerns
    • When the clinician is the target
    • When others are the target
    • De-escalation techniques
    • Preventative planning
      • Office layout
      • Keeping good boundaries
      • Police involvement before a crisis
    • Safety planning
    • When to call 911
    • Hospitalization process
    • Duty to warn
    • Case studies:
      • George—Handle a violent client
      • Dale—Practice Duty to Warn
  • The Addicted Client: What ALL Clinicians Need to Know
    • How misdiagnosis harms clients
    • Signs of intoxication
    • Imminent risk: Signs and symptoms of overdose
    • Identify withdrawal syndromes
    • Accurate diagnosis and treatment matching
    • Drug basics that clinicians should know:
      • Opioids and the opioid crisis (heroin, fentanyl and emerging drugs)
      • Stimulants (cocaine, “bath salts,” methamphetamine)
      • Cannabinoids (“shatter,” spice)
      • Other chemicals (DXM, “Special K,” Ayahuasca)
    • When and how to refer to a higher level of care
    • Case studies:
      • Percy—Opioid crisis in the waiting room
      • Cathy—Bipolar Disorder? Think again
  • The Traumatized Client: Help Without Hurting
    • Recognize trauma in clients
    • The risk of misdiagnosis
    • Dangers of improper treatment
    • Strategies for trauma-informed care
      • First and foremost: Safety inside and outside the clinic
      • The role of mindfulness
      • Go slow…but go
    • Understand Levels of Safety
    • Triune Brain Model and trauma
    • Bereavement: Not always trauma
    • The intersection of trauma, mental health, substance abuse and medical problems
    • Case studies:
      • Brian—Trauma missed
      • Mick—“How deep can I bury this?”
  • Medical vs. Psychiatric Problems: Limiting Harm
    • “What Could Kill the Patient First?”
    • Collaborative care with primary physician
    • Medical emergencies that present with psychological symptoms
    • Signs and symptoms: Limit client harm by recognizing a medical emergency
      • Medication-Related Disorders
      • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
      • Neurocognitive Disorders
      • Other Neurological Illnesses
    • Case studies:
      • Steven and the Zombies—Organic disorders
      • “Granny has schizophrenia!”
  • High Risk Clinicians: After the Crisis
    • Protect your license and manage liability
    • Documentation: What you need to know
    • Debriefing and supervision
    • Vicarious trauma
    • Addressing compassion fatigue
    • Case study:
      • Dave and me
  • Limitations and Potential Risks

    • Limited controlled studies
    • Seek supervision when necessary
    • Weigh out risk of intervening versus not intervening


  1. Complete a comprehensive mental health assessment that encompasses a multitude of clinical concerns including mental status, lethality, substance abuse and trauma.
  2. Identify signs of and risk factors for suicidal ideation in clients and effectively respond in order to ensure the safety of the client.
  3. Recognize indicators of substance intoxication, withdrawal and overdose in clients and establish protocol for responding appropriately.
  4. Assess for risk of violence in a clinical setting and develop skills to effectively and safely intervene during an acute crisis.
  5. Examine ways in which client responses to trauma are often misdiagnosed as mental health disorders and consider the clinical implications of this.
  6. Create accurate and comprehensive documentation of clinical crises to protect all.

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