Engaging individuals who self-harm in psychodynamic psychotherapy
Master of Social Work
School for Social Work
Parasuicide-Treatment, Self-injurious behavior-Treatment, Psychodynamic psychotherapy, Self-harm, Attachment, Embodiment, Recovery
The purpose of this exploratory study was to gain a deeper understanding of how individuals who self-harm develop ways of communicating about self-harming experiences in therapy. The study used semi-structured interviews with twelve participants to gather qualitative data about their experiences, with a focus on identifying what aspects of therapy were helpful to them, and what was difficult about engaging in therapy.
Participants spoke about the therapeutic encounter as one among many socio-cultural contexts in which changes of self-injury occurred. Findings suggest that engaging individuals who self-harm in therapy involves an understanding of self-harm as a communication of distressing experiences, much like verbal language and other bodily forms of expression. Findings also suggest a unique conceptualization of recovery within an injured body-highlighting the active and embodied nature of the emotion work done through self-harm, and how personal recovery processes and resources remain undervalued in therapeutic contexts focused on behavior cessation.
Kowalski, Dani, ""Translating the language of the body" : engaging individuals who self-harm in psychodynamic psychotherapy" (2017). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.