Self-harm, also known as self-injury, means hurting yourself on purpose. While cutting (using a sharp object to pierce your skin) is the most common form of self-harm many other forms exist, including burning, scratching or hitting body parts. Self-harm often first manifests itself in adolescence or young adulthood and is typically used as a way to cope with emotional pain. Individuals who have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse are particularly susceptible to self-harming behaviors. Self-harm can be a passing phase, but it is sometimes a symptom of a more serious psychiatric problem, like anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, so it is important to take it seriously. Whether you, or a child in your care, has recently started hurting yourself or you’ve been doing it for a while, there is help available! Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s self-harm experts today.

Meet the specialists

I work with teenagers and adults who use all sorts of behaviors to try to feel better, even when they know those behaviors are hurtful to themselves or others, or aren't in line with their values. I have worked with self-harm, thoughts of suicide, and emotional dysregulation in inpatient and outpatient settings. I rely on behavioral and emotional strategies to help you understand why you're using these behaviors and what to do instead.

— Tricia Mihal, Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX

I understand that there is a difference between self-harm and suicidal behavior and have experience helping people learn adaptive coping strategies.

— Debbie Duquette, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Huntsville, AL

I have worked with self injury for over 15 years and also provide trainings and workshops on the topic for clinicians, parents and schools. I use a harm reduction approach, and help people to explore the meaning and purpose of their self injury as they learn instead to find words for their pain.

— Kirsti Reeve, Counselor in Royal Oak, MI

Self-harm involves a toxic combination of self-hatred and intense emotions that seem impossible to overcome. I want to help my clients piece these two components apart and work through each one. Overcoming self-harm involves working through emotional distress without unintentionally pointing to yourself as "the problem" which only leads to more emotional distress.

— Zach Leezer, Clinical Social Worker in Chicago, IL

Self-injury, like many addictive behaviors, can take complete control of the person if left untreated. It can impact self-esteem, relationships, day to day functioning, and lead to more serious or life threatening behaviors as people habituate and need more of the drug. There are various functions that self-injury can serve for people based on level of overwhelm, and uncovering the "why" someone is engaged in these behaviors is one of the crucial steps needed to live fully and harm-free.

— Kim Johancen, Therapist in Lakewood, CO

While some providers may run away from this problem, I run towards treating it! One of the best things I get to experience as a professional is when I get to teach someone how to reduce self-harming behaviors and get their needs met in a healthier way. I have years of experience treating this behavior with successful resolution of self-harming behaviors. There is a reason for self-harming and when we can discover why, we can discover what to do instead.

— Michelle Fortier, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Tallahassee, FL

One of the most meaningful pieces of the work I do is helping people improve their relationships with themselves. I have experience implementing DBT-informed therapy and compassion-focused therapies to help clients manage self-harm and related challenges. Through this, we can help you understand what leads to self-harm and get you to a place of not feeling a need to have to resort to harming yourself to feel okay.

— Jennifer Gerlach, Therapist in Swansea, IL

I have extensive training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is a treatment that has shown to be incredibly effective in helping people to stop self-harming behaviors. I have worked with numerous clients struggling with self-harm and have many strategies that I teach to help you to develop new coping skills.

— Mar Galizio, Psychotherapist

Many of us struggle with negative coping skills to help us through life's most difficult tasks and events. Individuals struggling with self harm often struggle with finding other ways to cope. Often we don't realize how harmful certain behaviors can be. I work with clients on DBT skills to work on deescalating emotions with positive coping skills like deep breathing, mindefullness, and exploring new skills that will help avoid negative behaviors and create new positive ones.

— Stephanie Brands, Clinical Social Worker

Self-harm is very deceiving. You think it makes you feel better by not feeling at all, but those feelings you've tried so hard to get rid of remain & the cycle continues. It's a high-risk way to cope with unwanted emotions that may lead to an unhealthy way of living. Although it's very hard, it's so important to face those negative emotions that fuel you to self-harm.

— Gina Naumov, Licensed Professional Counselor in Middlesex County, NJ

The shame you hold and carry with you can be overwhelming. I encourage you to find a trusted person you can talk to about this secret and welcome your visit if you want me to be that person to confide in.

— Christine Lillja, Psychologist in Laguna Hills, CA

I have worked with individuals struggling with self-harm since 2010. Specialized training in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), which is the treatment of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as those who struggle with intense emotions and self-harm.

— Ashley Strang, Psychologist in Grand Rapids, MI

Someone might self-harm for a variety of reasons, but ultimately, self-harm is a person's way of expressing that something is wrong and they need help. So long as self-harm is not putting a person's life in danger, I approach the issue with compassion and non-judgment while we explore alternate methods to handle the feelings that drive the behavior.

— Catherine Humenuk, Clinical Social Worker in The Colony,

Self-harm/self-injurious behaviors (SIB) are common among children and youth who have been exposed to Trauma (typically moderate/superficial types of direct SIB: cutting, burning, hair pulling, and scarification). SIB can be seen as a maladaptive form of self regulation and may represent a child or youth’s attempt to to modulate overwhelming emotional experiences and symptoms of PTSD. In my work, I've seen how Creative, Somatic, and Equine Therapies can effectively guide youth away from SIB.

— Rory Valentine Diller, M.A., Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Orinda, CA

Moving From Self-Harm to Self-Care: Learn coping strategies to conquer harmful habits. *Are you struggling with self-harm, such as suicidal thoughts, self-injury, substance abuse, toxic relationships, or other harmful behaviors? *Have you tried to make a change on your own, but had trouble following through? Get support in crafting your own self-care plan to live a healthier and more satisfying life.

— Anna Lindberg Cedar, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in San Francisco, CA

I have experience working with clients with a wide range of self harm experiences. I will not judge your experience and offer a safe and healing space to process self harm behaviors.

— Mallory Striesfeld, Licensed Professional Counselor in Houston, TX

Self-harm is often thought of behaviors to "get attention" or something that "teens" do. Self-harm is often used as a short-term solution to difficult emotions/experiences. I understand that it works. I often find that with self-harm comes shame and hiding. Learning skills that are effective to manage the distress you experience and ones that do not result in you harming yourself to feel better is possible. You do not have to hurt yourself to be okay.

— Chantal Wilson, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Diego, CA

Self harm is in my opinion misunderstood. A client that is using self harm doesn't have the appropriate tools to manage distressing emotions. Clients that self harm are in an extreme amount of pain, and they take the pain out on themselves to feel better. Learning healthy and appropriate ways to tolerate, and work their way out of this addictive pattern of self abuse takes time, patience, and love.

— Bethany Juran, Licensed Professional Counselor in Arlington heights, IL

I work in The Self-Injury Institute. Visit for more information.

— Emma Jaegle, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

I have extensive experience working with clients (adolescents and children) who hav e experienced self-harm urges or engage in self-harm.

— Jasmine McLean, Counselor

I have worked with youth (children and teens) who have thoughts and behaviors of self-harm as well as thoughts and behaviors of suicide. I utilize Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy as well as interventions from Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

— Katrina (Kat) de los Santos, Mental Health Counselor in San Antonio, TX

One of the most meaningful experiences that I have had as a therapist is meeting a number of clients who have felt in such a dark place as to turn to self-harm or to to experience such a level of self-hate as to want to hurt themselves----and being a part of those client's healing. If interested in improving your relationship with yourself or being able to understand why you self-harm to feel better and no longer need it, we can begin therapy using strategies of DBT and self-compassion.

— Jennifer Gerlach, Therapist in Swansea, IL