Alternative Title

Engaging individuals who self-harm in psychodynamic psychotherapy

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type


Degree Name

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.




iii, 97 pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 81-84)

Included in

Social Work Commons