Self-harm, also known as self-injury, means hurting yourself on purpose. While cutting (using a sharp object to pierce your skin) is the most common form of self-harm many other forms exist, including burning, scratching or hitting body parts. Self-harm often first manifests itself in adolescence or young adulthood and is typically used as a way to cope with emotional pain. Individuals who have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse are particularly susceptible to self-harming behaviors. Self-harm can be a passing phase, but it is sometimes a symptom of a more serious psychiatric problem, like anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, so it is important to take it seriously. Whether you, or a child in your care, has recently started hurting yourself or you’ve been doing it for a while, there is help available! Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s self-harm experts today.

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Self-injury is one of the most misunderstood of all coping strategies. Self-injury is most often an attempt to both regulate and tolerate intolerable feelings. It also communicates psychological pain and suffering through the more recognizable and understandable physical pain. Both self-injury and eating disorders are common among LGBTQ folx, especially those who identify under the trans umbrella. Learning to understand what problem the self-injury is attempting to solve is key to healing.

— Beth Holzhauer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Evanston, IL

I utilize DBT, an evidence based treatment used to treat emotion dysregulation, suicidal ideation, and self-harm. Clients have significantly decreased, suicidal ideation, and self-harm by increasing skills in four core areas. Diary card mechanics and phone coaching are utilized as part of treatment modality.

— Amy Hunter, Licensed Professional Counselor in West Hartford, CT

I work from a harm reduction framework with the ultimate goal in my work with clients to be that they utilize safe and consistent skills and tools rather than engaging in self harm. In my work with clients who self harm, my priority is not only their well being but also to hold space and give them grace as they walk along the path to a safe and fulfilling life.

— Gracie Hernandez, Associate Professional Counselor in Smyrna, GA

I have specialized in "high risk" behaviors and thoughts (ex: self harm and suicidality) since I began my career. I have worked in outpatient, mobile crisis, and residential crisis. I have worked on crisis telephone hotlines, and supervised mental health crisis work for multiple counties in Pennsylvania.

— Crystal L. Vatza, Licensed Professional Counselor

Along with my years in crisis, self-harm behaviors are often common. Unfortunately, societal stigma plays a large part of shame and guilt for folx who struggle with self-harm behaviors. You aren't alone and are never defined by a diagnosis, behavior, or thought. I started and ran a self-harm support group for several years and believe in harm-reduction.

— Sage Stevens, Social Worker in Lemont, PA

Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a need for better coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety or posttraumatic distress disorder. Self-harm isn’t the same as attempting suicide. However, it is a symptom of emotional pain that should be taken seriously.

— Allyse Teltser, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Roswell, GA

Often those who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) or have a history of abuse, also suffer from self-harm. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is indicated to help relieve these behaviors which stem from finding a way to cope any way one can. While self-harm starts as a way to manage difficult emotions and/or experiences, shame and self-loathing often accompany the behaviors. Our DBT program at HHC&W and training in trauma-informed care is most helpful for this concern.

— Stacy Walker, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Sarasota, FL

When a person becomes overwhelmed and distressed, they may look to various avenues of relief to reduce their uncomfortable feelings, including self-harm. Self harming behaviors can be seen as a coping skill that a person acquires when they do not have other tools in their toolbox to navigate the challenges they may face. When working to address self harm, the main focus of treatment is finding new coping skills that encourage healing and help keep a person safe when facing distress.

— Kristina Altomari, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Boston, MA

Whether through cutting, hitting, or using a "good" behavior to the point of hurting ones self, many people will try to soothe distressing emotions or thoughts by hurting themself, usually beginning in their teen years. In session, we will talk through the purpose of the behavior, what it "gives", and find safer alternatives to achieve the same goals, while also working through the pain which led to the self-harm in the first place.

— Elizabeth Bolton, Licensed Professional Counselor in Cypress, TX

I have 8 years of experience working with individuals that have significant urges to harm themselves or are experiencing suicidal ideation. I think that recognition, honesty, openness, and having a supportive ally, are really important steps in beginning the path of challenging self harm urges and actions.

— Sam Anderson, Clinical Social Worker in Golden Valley, MN

An area of interest for me, working with adults and adolescents to learn replacement behaviors. Some additional training in this area.

— Elizabeth Fulsher, Clinical Social Worker in Vancouver, WA

Building skills and supports to cope with emotional pain, suffering, and numbness; increasing positive meaningful life experiences

— Hannah Brooks, Social Worker in New York, NY

Trauma survivors often use self-harm as a way to cope with intense emotional pain. Let's help you find another way.

— Dana Plyler, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles, CA