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From self-harm to self-belief

Even though self-harm is discussed in the media, the subject of self-harming can still feel difficult to approach. It can feel daunting and complex to help and treat someone who is self-harming. Self-harming is nearly always a way of coping, or releasing overwhelming emotion, it can also be a way to process emotion and sometimes to even express unexplainable feelings. Of course, if someone is left without useful support, this can develop into a cycle of self-destruction and self-hate.

In a situation where someone feels they have no control, self harming can give a sense of control, change emotional pain into physical pain, or even be a self inflicted ‘punishment’ for certain feeling and experiences.

The most common way of self-harming is to cut the skin in some way but there are many other ways harm or hurt can be caused – poisoning, over or under eating, biting, pick/scratching skin, burning, hitting oneself, overdosing, exercising excessively, pulling hair and getting into flights where you know you’ll get hurt.

One of the key factors to helping someone in these situations is building a trusting relationship, where someone can begin to express the feelings that are leading them into self-destructive behaviours. Therefore, the work of helping someone who is self-harming is not just restricted to therapists. Social workers, care workers, parents, teachers, peer support workers, online and helpline services and friends, are often extremely key in the process too. Making sure you have the right knowledge, skills and information can make a huge difference to help someone begin to move on from self-harm. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand and sympathise with something, if you fell you haven’t had direct personal experience but armed with this clear, research-based framework and practical skills you needn’t feel that way again….

Attend Emily Gajewski's ‘Overcoming Self-harm’ one-day training course and/or online course.

Emily Gajewski: SROT, HG.Dip.P, MHGI
Emily has worked for over 18 years as a therapist in the NHS (and privately), helping people move on from even the most severe emotional difficulties in a wide range of settings, ranging from psychiatric Intensive Care Units to supporting people in their own homes. Most recently she was employed as a Lead Occupational Therapist in Sussex where she developed a number of mental health services, working with a wide range of emotional difficulties (including self-harm and psychosis) and also leading on staff development and training. She now works freelance as a therapist, trainer and coach. Click here to find out more about Emily.


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Date posted: 14/02/2024