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.
Related Therapist Profiles
The following therapists specialize in Self-injury
Veronica Gillen, MSW, LSW
Veronica Gillen is a licensed social worker with a Masters Degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania with an emphasis on trauma informed care and strengths-based recovery support. Veronica is a bilingual therapist and provides services in both English and Spanish. Veronica enjoys working with women, children, and teens as well as families.
Cris Goodfellow, Intern Therapist
Cris is an intern therapist, seeking completion of her Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Trinity International University (Graduation May 2024). Cris is passionate about working with teens and adults, couples, and families, helping all people to seek individual and relational health.
Deb Landeene, Intern Therapist
Deb is a Master’s level counseling intern from Concordia University Chicago. She provides treatment to clients of all ages, but has a passion for working with adolescents and their parents. She is a wife and a mother to 2 grown children. She enjoys her animals, gardening and making jewelry. Deb considers herself a life-long learner.
Michael Albert, MA, LCPC
Michael is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the State of Illinois. He has nearly 2 decades of experience in the mental health field. He has provided services in many different settings including agency and hospital settings before private practice. Michael works well with a broad age range of clients, but has a special affinity for adolescents and young adults.
Brendan Bell, MA, LCPC
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.
Patrick Kelly, MA, LCPC, 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.
Maria Statkus Ritchey, MA, LCPC, CCATP-CA
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.
John Kim, MA, LCPC
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., LCPC
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.
Katy Robb, MSW, LCSW
Katy Robb is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and received her master’s degree in social work from the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan. She has over a decade of training and experience treating individuals across the lifespan in community-based services, college counseling, and private practice. Katy has been recognized for her work building a community college mental health center.
Emily Salomon, MS.Ed., LPC
Emily earned her MS.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Northern Illinois University. Emily holds deep value for the safe space that exists within the therapeutic relationship. She embraces the importance of being provided with new lenses with which a client may see the world a bit differently.
Julie Berry, MA
Julie is passionate about working with women, young adults, and individuals helping them find the power within themselves to navigate any struggle they may be facing. She loves forming a strong trusted relationship with her client. She focuses on helping people name their struggles or pains and identify ways to take action toward healing and wholeness. She believes we can learn from life’s experiences as helpful information to understanding ourselves more.