From time to time on Tuesdays, I’d like to talk about some issues that are counseling-related, given that’s how I spend the majority of my work days.  I have a podcast on my professional web site and you can find information on various topics.  I also have a regular listener and reader of this blog who has asked for information on self-injury and cutting and so today we’ll delve into this topic.

There is a big difference between self-injurious behavior like cutting and suicide attempts.  In fact, many times when people cut, they have no interest in dying . . . they’re trying to feel better.  They tell me that cutting makes them feel something.  Often, I find, they have been so traumatized or hurt by a life event or series of them that they are numb to emotion.

While its true that some people who cut do so to get attention, I also find this is not always the case.  In fact, some people cut in hidden and inconspicuous places (like their legs) because they don’t want anyone to know.

I once had a client come to the Emergency Room after having carved his daughter’s name on his arm.  His ex had told him he would not ever see the girl again and he was so distraught that he took a knife to himself and in big, deep letters he spelled out his name.  He was also suicidal but the self-injury was not designed to kill himself.  It was a very sad case.  He was admitted to the hospital and that was the last time I saw him.

Because self-injury is often used by these people as a coping strategy, therapy needs to address new ways of dealing with the stressors.  This should happen before and in congruence to dealing with those stressors if we want the client to be able to deal with therapy without hurting themselves further.  In this case, changing their behavior is the first step to good mental health.  Then we can begin to change the way they think.  Sometimes its the other way around.  And that’s why you should leave the therapy to the professionals.

What would you like to know about self-injury in general terms? Leave your non-personal questions in the comments section!



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