Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Self-injurious behavior in adolescence-Etiology, Self-injurious behavior in adolescence-Treatment, Non-suicidal self-injury in adolescents, Treatment processes


There has been an increase in the number of adolescents who engage in non-suicidal selfinjury (NSSI). This qualitative study explored clinical social workers’ perceptions of the causes of NSSI and the processes whereby social workers develop treatment for this behavior. This research was based on 10 in-person interviews conducted with Massachusetts licensed clinical social workers (mean average experience=20 years) who treat adolescent self-harm. Findings suggest adolescents often feel pressure to cut in order to fit in and therefore are more likely to engage in self-harm if their peers are encouraging this behavior. Further findings suggest that many participants seemed less aware than the literature implied about how neuroscience and attachment theory can be utilized to explain self-harming behavior.

In order to develop effective treatment methods, it is imperative that clinicians increase their understanding of the motivations for NSSI, especially the influence of peer relationships. At the graduate level, social work students should learn how to apply theoretical frameworks to guide their interventions and clinical practice. The results of this study expand knowledge of NSSI in adolescents as well as how to best educate emerging social workers about effective treatment methods.




iii, 68 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 55-59)

Included in

Social Work Commons