Self-harm therapy typically focuses on different types of behavioral therapy to help individuals learn healthy ways to deal with feelings rather than cutting or hurting themselves in other ways. Most self-harm therapy treatment sessions are performed on an outpatient basis, though there are inpatient facilities available in some areas for people who are not successful with outpatient treatment. In some cases, people who self-injure or self-mutilate may be treated with prescription medications.
Most psychiatrists and therapists are familiar with self-harm, though some have more experience than others. Patients seeking treatment for self-injury may wish to discuss their problems with several therapists to find one who can provide the type of treatment best for their individual situations. Self-harm therapy often focuses on the underlying problems and feelings that lead to the destructive behavior before working on ways to stop it and prevent it in the future. These therapy sessions may include general dialogue between the patient and the therapist, but they often include other approaches to help both parties better understand the patient’s behavior, such as journaling, drawing, or role-playing.
Once a therapist has determined the main underlying reasons and triggers for the patient’s self-destructive actions, he can better assess the best approach to treatment. Prescription medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, may be part of the overall treatment plan if the therapist determines the patient has an underlying mental health problem that leads to self-harm. In some cases, patients going through self-harm therapy are treated solely with behavioral approaches since they might not have a chronic mental health condition, but instead are unable to deal with stress, grief, anger, or other emotions in a healthy and constructive way.
Patients in self-harm therapy work with therapists to identify and implement coping strategies for their self-harm triggers that do not involve injuring themselves. For example, a therapist may advise a patient to take deep breaths, engage in exercise, listen to calming music, or write about feelings. Some therapists ask patients to create written action plans or contracts affirming that they will not harm themselves as a way to hold patients accountable and help them feel in control.
Inpatient programs for people who self-harm often combine group and individual therapy sessions. These programs often employ the same techniques as outpatient self-harm therapy sessions, but patients may go through several therapy sessions each day for several weeks to help them overcome the addictive nature of their behaviors. In severe cases where individuals who harm themselves are deemed a suicide risk, they may be placed under supervision in a psychiatric hospital or other inpatient facility to work with a psychiatrist until they are not at risk of inflicting fatal injuries on themselves.