Therapy for Self-Injury

Self-injurious behaviors (SIB), previously referred to as self-mutilation, may include a variety of behaviors such as cutting, burning, or scratching oneself.  While “cutting” is typically the most common form of self-injury, SIB behaviors may also include actions such as hitting oneself, picking one’s skin, pulling out one’s hair, or banging one’s head.  Self-injurious behaviors occur most frequently during the adolescent years, but may begin in early childhood and/or persist into adulthood as well.  Discovering that your child or loved one is engaging in such behaviors is very disconcerting and worrisome, often leaving you to wonder, “What can I do to stop it?  Where do I turn for help?”

We Specialize in Self-Injury Counseling

One of our areas of expertise and specialization involves working with children, adolescents, and adults who are engaging in self-injury.  Since individuals frequently go to great lengths to hide these behaviors, our stance of meeting each client with openness, warmth, support, and a nonjudgmental attitude is crucial.  As research clearly supports, the therapeutic relationship is the single most important factor in effective and successful change for any type of therapeutic treatment.  Beyond this relationship in general, treatment of SIB requires patience, understanding, and acceptance.  Shame and embarrassment often accompany the revealing of these behaviors for individuals, further underscoring the importance of seeking treatment with professionals who are well-trained and experienced in working with SIB specifically.

Self-Injury Treatment Approach

Treatment for SIB most commonly involves Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which combines cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation with distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness.  In other words, SIB therapy helps individuals develop coping skills to avoid becoming overwhelmed by negative emotions and learn how to deal with those emotions in a healthy manner.  It also involves learning how to accept oneself as a complete human being (both positive and negative aspects), while being understanding and compassionate to oneself, and not acting out in self-destructive ways.  By incorporating mindful awareness, individuals learn how to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the moment, accept them for what they are, and use them for positive change and growth.

Through a combination of a strong therapeutic relationship, DBT, and other treatment concepts (i.e., exploring relationship issues, working through previous painful experiences or trauma, etc.), therapy is an effective means of overcoming SIB and assisting individuals in becoming happier and healthier on their journey through life.