It may be hard to do, but offering support to those who use self-harming behavior to cope with severe internal emotional pain requires a good listener who leaves negative thoughts and judgments at the door.
San Diego, California (PRWEB) August 28, 2014
Therapists who treat self-harm patients have been in the news recently, asking social media sites such as YouTube and Tumblr to do a better job of policing images on their platforms that encourage self-harm. However, psychologist Joanne J. Wendt says family and friends often hold the key to ending the feelings of isolation that drive self-harm patients to look for validation online. Through her practice, she has developed several tips for those who want to help the self-injurers in their lives.
1. Dr. Wendt says, “It may be hard to do, but offering support to those who use self-harming behavior to cope with severe internal emotional pain requires a good listener who leaves negative thoughts and judgments at the door.” Many people who self-harm are desperately ashamed and afraid of being judged. While they are usually open to concern from family and friends, it is best to keep the lines of communication open without making them uncomfortable.
2. Pay attention to the emotions that come up and validate them. Instead of asking them a question such as “Did you cut last night,” instead, ask “How are you feeling today?” People who are battling self-harm are often at risk of cutting when they dwell on their injuries. Dr. Wendt recommends suggesting an activity to keep your friend’s or relative’s mind off of these things. Making yourself available as much as possible is very helpful, as cutting is an activity done in isolation.
3. If a loved one confides that they did have an incidence of self-harm, don’t discourage it as it limits their choices. Cutting/self-harm is their way of transforming internal pain that they can’t control to an external wound they can control. If they knew of other ways to deal with their pain, they wouldn’t cut or harm themselves. It’s a matter of survival. Also, wait until he or she feels comfortable before asking about details. Don’t ask to see the wounds as it would tend to make them feel bad and ashamed. If the injury is serious enough, they may ask your advice, at which time you can help them find medical treatment.
4. Dr. Wendt believes anyone concerned about a person who self-harms should avoid scare tactics. This is because scare tactics cause shame, guilt, and fear. Those same feelings cause self-injurers to self-harm and continue the cycle. Those who harm themselves need family and friends who encourage self-discovery with empathy and caring. Reaching out to the mental health community for further support may be a necessary component for a healthy outcome of all involved.
About Joanne J. Wendt, Ph.D.:
Dr. Wendt is a Clinical Psychologist who, for 28 years, has been helping individuals, couples, and families find peace and harmony in a respectful and caring atmosphere. She specializes in relationship issues, depression, and anxiety. Dr. Wendt’s goal is to help her clients discover the strength within them to achieve their highest possible potential. Her approach to the therapeutic setting is one of optimism and great respect for an individual’s readiness to meet difficult challenges and gain a greater understanding of who he/she aspires to be. To find out more, visit http://drjoannewendt.com.