Self-harm is an unhealthy coping skill that people use when experiencing emotional pain. Acknowledging and processing underlying emotions, as well as learning to utilize healthy coping strategies, is important in healing.

Coping with life stressors that impact mental health is not always easy. As humans, we naturally want to relieve any pain that impacts our daily lives. Whether we feel hurt physically or emotionally, it is normal to search for ways to alleviate the pain. People utilize coping strategies, ones that are healthy and others that may be unhealthy, to manage the stress going on in life.

Humans tend to naturally seek an immediate or instant resolution when it comes to problem-solving. To do this, people may utilize healthy coping skills such as mindfulness, breathing techniques, exercise, and journaling. Sometimes, people tend to cope in ways that are unhealthy and maladaptive. Self-injury is a method that some people use to cope with pain and emotional distress.

Self-harm is a behavior that some people use as a way to have a sense of control in their lives while temporarily coping with emotional pain. Teenagers and young adults tend to self-injure more often than those outside of these age ranges. However, it can also affect people later in life as well.

People who have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect are most at risk of using self-harm as a coping mechanism. Self-injury may seem like a helpful strategy as it may feel like a release for people who are experiencing many emotions such as frustration, stress, fear, or sadness. Other times, people may turn to harming themselves to relieve emotional numbness in order to feel something. Because self-injury provides temporary relief from emotional pain or numbness, this behaviour can become a dangerous cycle and habit that may impact someone long-term. Although self-injury is different from attempting suicide, those who hurt themselves may experience suicidal thoughts and feelings. Thus, it is important for individuals who self-harm to find support and treatment to address thoughts and feelings that underlie this behavior.

“Self-harm, can thus become a dangerous cycle and a long-time habit. Self-harm isn’t the same as attempting suicide. However, it is a symptom of emotional pain that should be taken seriously. If someone is hurting themself, they may be at an increased risk of feeling suicidal. It’s important to find treatment for the underlying emotions.”
– NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)

In working with individuals who engage in self-injurious behaviors, Cherry Hill Counseling practices from a person-centered, non-judgmental, and trauma-informed framework. When a person hurts themselves, feelings of shame and guilt may surface and this leads to negative feelings that cause people to harm themselves again. As clinicians, we understand that mental health may be impacted by several life stressors such as experiencing trauma and losing a loved one that may surface feelings such anxiety, hopelessness, and depression.

From our experience as mental health professionals, we know that people may cope in ways that are healthy and unhealthy. As therapists, our clients’ health and safety is a priority. Since self-injury can become a dangerous cycle, we want to emphasize and acknowledge the importance of learning healthy coping techniques to replace self-harming behaviors while also providing a safe, non-judgmental space for people to process.

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Related Therapist Profiles

The following therapists specialize in Self-injury

Brendan Bell, MA, LCPC

Deer Park | Wheaton

Brendan Bell is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Illinois. He has worked in private practice for the last 20 years, with offices in both Deer Park and in Wheaton. His expertise involves working with middle schoolers, adolescents, and their families, with extensive experience addressing behavior disorders. Brendan also works with adults and particularly enjoys counseling artists.

Elizabeth Haines, MS, LCPC


Elizabeth is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She values a strong therapeutic alliance and believes that a supportive and collaborative working relationship is instrumental in helping clients improve their overall quality of life. She uses her expertise in yoga and mindfulness to assist clients in learning to calm and relax the stressed body and mind.

Maria Catanzaro, MA, LPC

Deer Park | Wheaton

Maria has a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Wheaton College. She believes that it is important to consider each person holistically including the mind, body, and soul. She uses creative methods to help clients articulate their feelings and solve problems. Maria enjoys working with a variety of clients including caregivers, parents, children, teens, young adults, and adults.

Patrick Kelly, MA, LPC, CCATP


Patrick’s mission as a Licensed Professional Counselor is to utilize his diverse life experience and graduate-level education to make a positive difference in the lives of struggling and hurting people. His passion is working with troubled marriages along with helping individuals cope with and rise above anxiety and depression brought about by life’s challenges and difficulties.

Lydia, Klassen, MA, LPC, CCTP

Lake Zurich | Vernon Hills

Lydia Klassen received her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Trinity International University. She has experience working with interpersonal issues, emotional regulation, grief, and trauma. Lydia strives to develop safety in the client-counselor relationship as she journeys with clients toward greater freedom in their lives. She has a particular interest in couples, families, and third-culture kids.

Maria Statkus Ritchey, MA, LCPC, CCATP-CA

Deer Park | Wheaton | Chicago

Maria is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. Maria is enthusiastic about working with different populations, including children, adolescents, young adults, and families. Maria has experience utilizing non-directive play therapy and her approach is client-centered based, while integrating client strengths within the process.

Christina Vargas, MSW, LSW


Christina is a trilingual therapist (English, Spanish, and Thai) with a Master’s degree in Social Work from University of Michigan. She specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and families. Christina emphasizes and acknowledges clients’ strengths as she guides them through their personal struggles in hopes that every client she works with will achieve their full potential.

John Kim, MA, LPC

Deer Park

John received his MA in Mental Health Counseling from Trinity International University where he gained experience doing therapeutic work through the university's counseling center. John is committed to building warm, authentic, and meaningful relationships with his clients as he helps them work toward their unique goals. He works with individuals, couples, and groups.

Alison Yu, MA, M.Div., LPC

Vernon Hills

Alison Yu, M.Div, MA, LPC, is a bilingual (English and Mandarin Chinese) counselor who is experienced working with individuals, couples and families. She has a special heart for immigrant families. Trained in both psychology and theology, she is passionate about helping people to integrate the Christian faith in their healing process.

Jennifer Irocky, PhD Practicum Student

Lake Zurich | McHenry

Jennifer recently completed her PhD coursework in clinical psychology at Walden University and is completing her practicum at Cherry Hill Counseling.

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