Therapy for self harming teenagers

I provide specialist counselling and therapy for self harming teenagers. Having a teenager who you believe is self-harming and who won’t talk to you about it is frightening and worrying. As parents we can sometimes end up wondering what it was in our parenting that made this happen and these feelings of guilt can eventually make us feel angry towards our children for doing this to themselves.

In this blog I identify some of the contributing factors that lead people to use self-harm as a way of coping and I offer some advice for parents who have children who are self-harming.

The young people I have spoken with who self-harm tell me their actions are an attempt to substitute emotional or mental pain for a physical, external, pain.  

They say they believe they can control the external pain as they are the ones producing it whereas the internal pain they feel is sometimes overwhelming and usually caused by the actions of other people in their life over whom they have no influence. This can be friends, teachers or family.

In a very real sense they are attempting to make themselves feel better. Put simply, if I am feeling bad about an event, and I am unable to change my internal thoughts and feelings about it, then I may look for an external cure. 

Many of us are gratified, or feel better, by our relationship with our external world. From the iPhone user on The Underground keeping themselves to themselves, to the CEO of a large company enjoying her position of influence, to the Ferrari driver enjoying his car, our society supplies us with the tools we need to feel better about ourselves by using the objects in our lives to raise our spirits. 

This is OK, it won’t harm us and as long as we are able to experience open, honest, loving relationships away from the cars, phones and businesses, it’s fine.

Some people however may take this way of relating to their exterior world to extremes. They might use alcohol to feel better or have multiple relationships, finding dangerous comfort in the arms of strangers. They may even use drugs recreationally and end up recreationally using their way into dependence. They may find that making money, to the exclusion of all else, is the only thing that enables them to feel safe and secure. All of a sudden the objects we use to manage our lives end up managing our lives.

Self-Harm falls into this category. On the surface it seems different to the other kinds of stimulus as it involves the immediate application of pain whereas the other forms of external gratification involve seeking immediate pleasure. However, I would argue that pleasure found in the excessive use of the outside world causes thinly disguised damage and pain to us in the form of spiritual harm, physical injury and mental torment.

As with all dangerous habits, self-harmers develop rituals, use deception and carry out their mood altering in private. It is tempting for the adult world to distance themselves from self-harm and see it as being a young person’s problem but in truth if we do this we deny the seriousness of problems that cross all generations in our society and we separate ourselves from the children in our world.

Young people, like older people, feel confused, angry and fearful and they, like older people, are compelled to do whatever they can do to feel safe and comfortable. If people perceive that safety and comfort is not easily at hand then they will do whatever makes sense to them at the time to find it themselves.

If that is by using a razor blade or a broken bottle then that is how it is………………until help arrives.

If you would like to find out how I can help you or someone you love then why not get in touch, I would be pleased to talk you through my experience and perhaps we can help you find a way through.