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Choosing the right kind of therapy for self-injuring youth part 3

This is the third and final post on choosing the right kind of therapy for self-injuring youth. The last two posts have focussed on the three approaches to therapy taht I have found in my research: 1) individualized therapy, 2) a "mixed approach" between individual and family therapy, and 3) finally, the family therapy approach.

In the family therapy approach, the self-injuring person and their family go directly to a family therapist together. According to Miner et al, this approach is highly effective as it moves the focus away from the individual in order to explore how family patterns may be supporting the self-injuring behaviour. Miner explains:

The definition of NSSI solely focusses on the cause of the behaviour being with the individual, but fails to include the family in the potential causes or treatment for NSSI, despite several population studies citing that adolescents who are more susceptible to NSSI come from family conflict… Broadening treatment methods to include the family and better understand the system in which the NSSI behaviour manifests is crucial to long-term efficacy.[1]

Miner explains that the goal of family therapy with regards to treating the self-injuring youth is to “seek to understand and restructure the environment that contributes to and maintains NSSI as opposed to attempting to reduce the behaviour in the adolescent”.[2] This is a radical shift in mindset for treating young people who engage in NSSI and I believe, a very hopeful one.

Once self-injurious behaviour is noticed by parents or other family members, family therapists recommend bringing the entire family to therapy, instead of the self-injuring youth attending alone. In the coming weeks, I will be posting some helpful case studies that will show the effectiveness of each therapeutic method.

[1] Courtney L. Miner, Heather A. Love, and Song E. Paik, “Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Adolescents: Addressing the Function and the Family from the Perspective of Systemic Family Therapies,” The American Journal of Family Therapy 44, no. 4 (August 7, 2016): 212,

[2] Miner, Love, and Paik, 215.

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