Self-harm or self-injury is a self-inflicted physical injury in an attempt to alter mood or physiological state. It can take a variety of forms which may be cutting or burning a part of the body or it may be overdosing or drinking excessively. It is often a coping mechanism to deal with other problems or it could be a form of self-punishment to deal with feelings of guilt.
Having worked for many years with people who self-harm/self-abuse I have come to realize that empathy and being non-judgmental is important in helping a person open up and talk. I always ensure that the person who is self-harming is looking after himself or herself and that whatever they choose to use to self-harm is clean and sterilized and that their wounds are looked after. Once a caring and understanding environment is created then we are able to discuss the issues behind self-harming.
People who self-harm could benefit from therapy to deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, anger, abuse, sexuality and gender issues. From my experience a number of people who self-harm have struggled to cope with the transition from childhood to teenage years and then to adulthood and many feel confused as to who they really are.
In my work I have often come across people who don’t mention self-harming until we are into our 3rd/4th session. This is understandable because as I have mentioned above they need to feel that the person sitting opposite them will not judge them.
Counselling may help an individual to talk through their problems and to find out the root cause of their need to self-harm.