Most self-harm begins in adolescence, typically around age 14, and continues into early adulthood, especially without intervention. While girls are more prone to self-harm, it is a phenomenon that occurs across all demographics. Cutting is the most common type of self-harm, but it can take multiple forms. Research indicates that one in eight people engage in some form of self-harm, and it has become more widespread in recent years.
Self-harm is the symptom of deeper underlying mental health issues. Harmony Hills provides self-harm treatment designed to uncover the roots of these behaviors by fostering the development of insight, healthy coping skills, and emotional regulation. Because the cycle of self-harm is so complex, and those who engage in it rely heavily on it as a coping skill, harm reduction therapy techniques are the best approach to initial self-harm treatment. Contact us at 855.494.0357 to learn more.
What to Know About Harm Reduction Therapy
Harm reduction therapy is a public health strategy initially developed in the 1980s to reduce the harm associated with drug and alcohol abuse in people for which total abstinence was not desired or attainable. Regarding substance abuse, harm reduction accepts that a continuing level of drug or alcohol use is inevitable and defines objectives to reduce adverse consequences to the greatest extent possible.
Harm reduction measures success in terms of health, social, and economic outcomes rather than drug or alcohol consumption. Needle exchange programs are an example of a harm reduction strategy. Though these programs do not prevent drug use, they reduce the transmission of bloodborne pathogens like HIV and hepatitis, increase levels of proper wound care, and promote safe needle disposal, all of which benefit public safety.
Harm reduction has evolved to be applied to numerous other public health concerns, including self-harm. No matter the target of harm reduction, there are some common principles for its use:
- It is a non-judgmental approach that meets people where they are
- It utilizes evidence-based policies and practices
- Individuals are treated with respect, compassion, and dignity
- It focuses on quality life improvements over abstinence
- It empowers individuals to be the primary agent of change regarding their risky behavior
- It accepts behavioral change as an incremental process
- It works in opposition to the stigma associated with mental health disorders
From the perspective of harm reduction, multiple small gains for many people better serve a community than large gains for a few people. Additionally, most people are more likely to take numerous small steps toward a goal than make sweeping changes all at once.
The Benefits of Harm Reduction for Self-Harm/Self-Injurious Treatment
It is important to understand the language about self-harm and self-injurious behavior. Self-injurious behaviors are those that involve deliberate acts of physically hurting yourself and can include:
- Pulling out your hair
- Punching yourself
- Intentionally breaking bones
Self-harm includes behaviors that can cause short-term and long-term damage to overall well-being, such as:
- Overeating or under eating
- Drug abuse
- Binge drinking
- Dangerous sexual practices
- Purposefully putting yourself in dangerous situations
Some of the reasons for engaging in self-harm/self-injurious behaviors include:
- Self-punishment or self-reward
- Distracting from painful thoughts or memories
- Maintaining a sense of control
- Expressing thoughts or feelings that cannot be verbalized
- Needing to feel something instead of feeling emotionally numb
Harm reduction recognizes that individuals who engage in these behaviors have become reliant on them and are stuck in a complex cycle of feeling guilt and shame but being unable to stop. It is unrealistic to think that these individuals can immediately stop these behaviors, so the goal of harm reduction is to minimize the impacts and frequency while uncovering the underlying issues at the cause.
Harm reduction strategies will be unique to each individual’s particular forms of self-harm/self-injury but can include:
- Education about proper wound care
- Education about sterilization of implements used for cutting
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Grounding exercises
- Education about the symptoms of shock
- Discussing anatomy and “safer” ways to cut, such as lengthwise vs. across
- Distraction techniques like listening to music or drawing on the skin
It is critical to recognize that harm reduction therapy for self-harm/self-injurious behavior is not a solution but is part of a comprehensive treatment plan to ultimately address overall mental health and well-being to eliminate these behaviors.
Discover Harm Reduction Therapy in Florida at Harmony Hills
Harmony Hills offers comprehensive, individualized treatment for self-harm, including harm reduction therapy. Our clinical professionals will help your loved one uncover and treat the underlying mental health issues that trigger self-harm behaviors and learn healthy coping skills. Contact us at 855.494.0357 to learn more about our harm reduction therapy and our self-harm/self-injurious treatment program in Florida.