Article Published: 9/23/2022
When Dr. Jenny Cureton was pursuing her PhD in counselor education and supervision from the University of Northern Colorado and teaching others about suicide prevention, she realized that there was limited guidance on how to address suicide protective factors in counseling, “despite the fact that guidelines for practice include them as an essential piece of suicide assessment and intervention,” she says.
After surveying the research from guiding organizations such as the American Association of Suicidology and the World Health Organization, Dr. Cureton worked with Matthew Fink, MA, to create SHORES, an acronym of factors considered protective against suicide across demographic groups. This mnemonic device is intended to help counselors address suicide with clients and can be applied in classroom, group, and individual settings.
SHORES stands for:
Last year, Diane Stutey, PhD, NCC, LPC, RPT-S, and Dr. Cureton co-authored an article titled “Suicide Protective Factors: Utilizing SHORES in School Counseling” with Kim Severn, MA, LPC, a licensed school counselor and instructor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and Matthew Fink, MA, a doctoral student at Kent State University. The article was published in Volume 11, Issue 1 of The Professional Counselor. Recently Drs. Stutey and Cureton shared their thoughts about SHORES and how it can benefit school counselors.
How would you explain SHORES to a school counselor and demonstrate its application within schools?
Dr. Stutey: SHORES incorporates so much of what school counselors already do, which is why it is so applicable. All school counselors are trained in how to assess for suicide ideation and risk factors, so learning a mnemonic device such as SHORES is an adjunct tool to use during this process. Many school counselors are already teaching about skills and strategies for coping, which can be protective factors against suicide; they just might not be labeling these as such.
SHORES can help school counselors remember to assess for the student’s level of hope and any objections they may have to suicide. During that same assessment, school counselors can ask about a student’s reasons to live and determine if they need to work with the family to restrict any means. Finally, engaged care and support are key parts of a comprehensive school counseling program.
Many people, including counselors and parents, are uncomfortable discussing suicide. How can SHORES help us begin to have these difficult conversations?
Dr. Cureton: My hope—and feedback we’ve received supports this—is that SHORES reframes the suicide conversation to rightfully include what is already working well to protect someone from any thoughts and attempts to end their own life, or what might be maximized to better protect them. This is an additive contribution to typical suicide assessment, intervention, and postvention. We still need to talk about what puts someone at risk and the usually troubling emotions and experiences they’ve had. But to know that I can broach this serious topic as a counselor, parent, colleague, or friend in a positive way invites me to do so with less fear.
How widely has SHORES been implemented?
Dr. Cureton: So far, we have trained professional counselors at national, regional, and state conferences (e.g., ACES, ASCA, NCDA, the All Ohio Counselors Conference, and the Colorado School Counseling Conference); private practitioners and school counselors in local workshops; providers as well as family and community members via webinars; and numerous counselors-in-training in graduate courses. However, we have not yet researched the scope of the implementation.
Dr. Stutey: We are currently conducting two research studies on SHORES training workshops in which focus groups of attendees discussed the utility of this mnemonic device. The first study was with a group counseling practice and the second was with licensed school counselors. Data from these two studies is in the process of being analyzed and will be shared in presentations and future manuscripts.
Can SHORES be used within other organizations such as law enforcement, youth recreation centers, and medical facilities, or is this content specific to schools?
Dr. Cureton: Certainly, and that’s part of my core mission. The SHORES mnemonic represents factors that are understood to be protective across populations, and the original article published in the Journal of Counseling & Development was written for counselors to adapt the tool to their diverse clients and settings. Since then, articles and trainings have applied SHORES to counseling specializations (e.g., clinical mental health, school, career, and college counseling); to client groups and co-occurring concerns (e.g., children and adolescents, ADHD); and to counseling frameworks (i.e., humanistic counseling).
I believe we strengthen counselor professional identity when we involve those from other specializations, other professions, and laypeople. We can more clearly understand, educate, and advocate for our profession when we work within this broader community context.
How can counselors learn more about implementing SHORES in their schools and in other settings?
Dr. Cureton: You are welcome to contact me by email and/or connect online to see alerts of new writings and training opportunities. We are currently seeking partners to continue sharing and researching SHORES in diverse contexts and welcome anyone to contact us with ideas and opportunities!
Jenny Cureton, PhD, LPC (TX, CO), is an associate professor in the School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences at Kent State University. She earned her PhD in counselor education and supervision from the University of Northern Colorado and her master’s in counseling from the University of North Texas.
Diane Stutey, PhD, NCC, LPC, RPT-S, is a licensed school counselor and an associate professor and department chair for the Department of Counseling and Human Services at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She earned her PhD in counselor education and supervision from the University of Northern Colorado.
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