Self-Injury or Self-Harm

Whether it is sadness, loss, worry, guilt, anxiety, or another emotion, for better or worse, almost everyone will experience some sort of emotional discomfort in their lifetime. Although, of course, no one wants to feel this way, having emotional discomfort from time to time is just a part of being human. In small amounts, this "regular" type of emotional discomfort is at a level that is difficult for most, but also usually manageable.  


Sometimes this very normal, yet unwanted, human experience gets overdone. When this happens, emotional discomfort tends to show up frequently, may last for prolonged periods, and often feels overwhelming. Understandably, people do not want to feel this way and search constantly for some sort of relief. Unfortunately, unlike "regular" emotional discomfort, this heightened experience is much more difficult to handle effectively.  


Self-injury, or self-harm, (including recurrent suicide preoccupation or attempts) often occurs because it provides momentary relief from overwhelming emotional discomfort. One problem is that the attempted solution often leads to even more problems and emotional distress for both the individual and those around them. For example, self-injury may lead to even more guilt, shame, fear and isolation. Most of all, struggles with self-injurious behaviors tend to interfere with people's ability to function normally and make it even more impossible to get a life that feels meaningful and worth living.  


At our Center we offer a type of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) that has been shown to be highly effective in treating struggles with self-injury or self-harm that is the result of overwhelmingly intense emotions. When suicidal thoughts, plans or preoccupations are the result of a Major Depression, the most effective treatment is usually a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression and medication. When depression is not the only emotion that becomes overwhelming, and when urges suddenly leap up to self-harm or to act impulsively in other ways that interfere with the quality of life, DBT may be the most effective treatment. DBT is a compassionate behavioral therapy that involves helping people learn skills to deal with distress, emotional turmoil, and interpersonal difficulties without resorting to habitual self-harm, other impulsive acts or recurrent hospitalizations. We offer both standard DBT and DBT as an adjunct to ongoing psychotherapy outside our Center. Standard DBT involves both weekly individual psychotherapy, a weekly skills training group and telephone consultation with a Center therapist who participates in a weekly Consultation Group designed to help the therapist be as effective as possible. We also offer Skills Training Groups and DBT-based group therapy for those who choose to continue in individual psychotherapy with a clinician who is not on the Center staff.