Katherine Anne (Kate) Comtois, PhD, MPH

Personal Statement

My career goal is to give suicidal clients and their clinicians the best chance to succeed. I have been working in the area of health services, treatment development, and clinical trials research to prevent suicide for over 20 years. My graduate training was in community/clinical psychology and focused on achieving clinical ends through prevention and other systemic interventions in socio-culturally diverse populations. I have brought these perspectives into health services research.  I have developed or adapted interventions to improve care and clinician willingness to work with suicidal patients including Caring Contacts, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS), and Preventing Addiction Related Suicide (PARS). I have developed an adaptation of DBT, Accepting the Challenges of Employment and Self-Sufficiency (DBT-ACES), a program to assist psychiatrically disabled individuals find and maintain living wage employment. My research has been funded by NIMH, NIDA, the Department of Defense, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Department of Veteran Health Affairs, and the State of Washington.

I am the director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Recovery (CSPAR) whose mission is to promote the recovery of suicidal individuals and the effectiveness and well-being the clinicians and families who care for them by conducting rigorous and ecologically valid research, developing innovative interventions, improving policies, systems and environments of care, and providing expert training and consultation. CSPAR faculty and staff seek a deep understanding of the cultures and settings in which we work that leads to meaningful and effective interventions ready for implementation.

In addition to clinical research, I founded the Society for Implementation Research Collaboration (SIRC) and am the PI and Director of the Military Suicide Research Consortium Dissemination and Implementation core.  These organizations focus on disseminating and implementing innovative, evidence-based interventions in the systems that need them. Beyond my research, I directed the Harborview Dialectical Behavior Therapy program at Harborview Medical Center 1996-2019, co-lead the UW DBT Training Program and have a long history of training and mentoring junior faculty, fellows, psychiatry residents, pre-doctoral psychology interns, undergraduate students, and post-baccalaureate trainees. I provide psychotherapy and consultation at the UWMC Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic.


MPH , Health Services , University of Washington, Seattle , 2009
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Severe Mental Illness , Harborview Medical Center , 1992-1994
Ph.D. , Clinical/Community Psychology , University of Maryland, College Park , 1992
M.A. , Clinical/Community Psychology , University of Maryland, College Park , 1990
B.A. , Psychology , Douglass College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick , 1986

Department Affiliations

Teaching Philosophy

Clinically: I believe that teaching of psychiatry and psychology residents should meaningfully improve their clinical skill and judgment including respect for the patient’s strengths and perspective, treatment alliance, fund of knowledge, and engagement and commitment of patients to treatment. Even when psychiatrists do not conduct psychotherapy after graduation, they often supervise and direct those who do. I believe it is critical that they truly understand what psychotherapy is, how and when it works, and the strategies within it in order to guide the services they will supervise throughout their careers. Psychologists often come to training in our department with a large fund of knowledge and clinical experience, but frequently from limited settings with mild to moderate illness. I believe it is critical for psychologists to gain exposure and experience adapting evidence-based psychotherapies to more severe psychopathology and to patients in more difficult circumstances as well as within the limits of Medicaid and Medicare funding. Not only do they graduate as stronger and more flexible clinicians, they can be more effective as researchers and teachers as well.

Research: I believe health services and clinical trial researchers need to deeply understand not only the patients and their struggles, but also the clinicians and systems which struggle to serve them and the social and cultural contexts from which they come. In addition, researchers need to understand their own academic context, that of the funders and reviewers of their work, and what is critical to career and funding success. Smart, thoughtful researchers who cannot get their research funded leave important questions unstudied and interventions untried. This helps no one. Thus, I am committed to helping new researchers understand what they study, how to study it well, and how to fund their research so they can succeed and change the future of health services.

Recent Publications

Comparative effectiveness of safety planning intervention with instrumental support calls (ISC) versus safety planning intervention with two-way text message caring contacts (CC) in adolescents and adults screening positive for suicide risk in emergency departments and primary care clinics: Protocol for a pragmatic randomized controlled trial.
(2023 Aug)
Contemp Clin Trials 131(): 107268
Radin AK, Shaw J, Brown SP, Flint H, Fouts T, McCue E, Skeie A, Peña C, Youell J, Ratzliff A, Powers DM, Biss M, Lemon H, Sandoval D, Hartmann J, Hammar E, Doty-Jones A, Wilson J, Austin G, Chan KCG, Zheng Z, Fruhbauerova M, Ross M, Stright M, Pullen S, Edwards C, Walton M, Kerbrat A, Comtois KA

"Keep up the messages, sometimes it was a lifesaver": Effects of cultural adaptation on a suicide prevention clinical trial in American Indian/Alaska Native communities.
(2023 Jul)
Behav Res Ther 166(): 104333
Bogic M, Hebert LE, Evanson A, Wright BD, Petras A, Jansen K, Shaw J, Comtois KA, Nelson L

Identifying opportunities for informatics-supported suicide prevention: the case of Caring Contacts.
AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2022(): 309-318
Burkhardt HA, Laine M, Kerbrat A, Cohen T, Comtois KA, Hartzler A

From benchmark to bedside: transfer learning from social media to patient-provider text messages for suicide risk prediction.
(2023 May 19)
J Am Med Inform Assoc 30(6): 1068-1078
Burkhardt HA, Ding X, Kerbrat A, Comtois KA, Cohen T

Comparative effectiveness of two versions of a caring contacts intervention in healthcare providers, staff, and patients for reducing loneliness and mental distress: A randomized controlled trial.
(2023 Jun 15)
J Affect Disord 331(): 442-451
Radin AK, Shaw J, Brown SP, Torres J, Harper M, Flint H, Fouts T, McCue E, Skeie A, Peña C, Youell J, Doty-Jones A, Wilson J, Flinn L, Austin G, Chan KCG, Zheng Z, Fruhbauerova M, Walton M, Kerbrat A, Comtois KA

Show complete publication list »
Edit Profile