Understanding Clinical Treatment

Understanding clinical treatment

Understanding the basics of clinical treatment can help youth-development professionals better support young people they work with who need treatment or are in recovery from self-harm. The most commonly used evidence-based treatment for young people who purposely injure themselves is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), said Dr. Israel. DBT is a way of using specific strategies for managing the intense feelings that lead to self-injury, such as:

• Mindfulness, or being very aware of feelings you are having without judging or acting on them; and

• Self-soothing, or focusing on positive memories or thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is another type of treatment that has been shown to help self-injurers. CBT looks at and tries to address a person’s inaccurate or unhealthy beliefs, particularly their thoughts immediately prior to self-injury. Other interventions, such as psychotherapy or expressive therapies (such as art or music therapy) may also be used. Israel said that when given by a professional with appropriate experience, these interventions might also help young people process their feelings and potentially find healthy avenues for dealing with stresses that can lead to self-harm.

An overall treatment plan for a self-injuring young person may also include working on:

• Other mental-health issues;

• Relationships with parents or other family members;

• Communication and problem-solving skills; and/or

• Ability to deal with stress and frustration. -Lisa Pilnik


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