Today I read an excellent article from The Family Journal: Counselling and Therapy for Couples and Families about Self-Injury. The article is written for family therapists who are seeing an increase of families coming for therapy who have children within the family system who are self-injuring. The authors maintain that patients who engage in NSSI may have less secure attachment with parents and caregivers than those who do not self-injure. They suggest that
"the most important factor in treating NSSI is the therapeutic bond between the client and the counsellor. What may eventually be shown as an equally important factor in treating NSSI is the healing bond between the client and appropriate supportive family members" (pg. 159).
The article gives 10 helpful points to help family members who have a loved one who is self-injuring to better understand NSSI:
1. Seek support from a licensed professional who specializes in NSSI.
2. Client's behaviours may get worse before they get better.
3. Do not shame the client for a relapse into NSSI.
4. Have support lined up for the parent/caregiver.
5. Each individual's reasons for self-injury are different and the motivations for NSSI are not always the same.
6. The client's self-injury may not be a suicide attempt.
7. Do not punish of place ultimatums on NSSI behaviour.
8. Your loved one may use temporary alternatives to NSSI to stimulate similar pain or visual response without causing bodily harm (such as holding ice cubes to their arms or drawing lines with markers where they usually cut).
9. Treating self-injury seems to be most effective when clients can improve attachment security.
10. The client will continue to feel a variety of desirable and undesirable emotions (such as sadness, anxiety and anger even after the NSSI discontinues).
To check out the article, please see: Teague-Palmieri, Emily B., and Daniel Gutierrez. “Healing Together: Family Therapy Resource Strategies for Increasing Attachment Security in Individuals Engaging in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury.” The Family Journal 24, no. 2 (2016): 157–63. https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480716628629.