An exploration of deliberate self-harming behaviours in adolescents and a discussion of three Behavioural Therapies that may be effective as a therapeutic intervention

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Adamson, Sharron
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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This paper will explore what self-harm is, the possible underlying reasons behind it and, in light of this information, there will be a review of two behavioural approaches that have shown efficacy in working with young people who engage in self-harm. ‘Sometimes called ‘deliberate self-harm,’ ‘self-injury,’ ‘self-mutilation,’ ‘cutting,’ or ‘non-suicidal self-injury’, self-injury typically refers to a variety of behaviours in which an individual intentionally inflicts harm to his or her body for purposes not socially recognized or sanctioned and without suicidal intent’ (Favazza, 1996). For the purpose of this paper self-harm will be defined as ‘the commission of deliberate harm to one's own body. The injury is done to oneself, without the aid of another person, and the injury is severe enough for tissue damage (such as scarring) to result. Acts that are committed with conscious suicidal intent or are associated with sexual arousal are excluded’ (Winchel & Stanley, 1991) The purpose of this research is to collate the information available which could be used by educators, social workers and other youth service providers when working with self-harming issues. As well as reviewing the efficacy of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in managing and reducing incidents of self-harm in adolescence, the author will also give an explanation of how these approaches work. The author will add to this the exploration of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), although there is little research available in relation to this approach and self-harming behaviours, REBT has been noted to take into consideration developmental stages, which are an important factor in working with adolescents. This will be library based research with the material being gathered from a body of literature which already exists on the subject. The intention is that this research will add to that already existing on the subject of self-harm and behavioural therapeutic interventions.