How Integrative Therapy Can Help Reduce Negative and Self-Harming Thoughts | Guest Post by Tess DiNapoli
Self-harm is a kind of behavior that can express itself in different ways and for different reasons. For some, it manifests in injuring one’s own skin. For others, it could mean overeating or undereating, or otherwise intentionally placing yourself in harm’s way. Understanding why people self-harm could help you or someone close to you find the help they need.
Why Do People Self-Harm?
While the reasons for this behavior are many and varied, self-harm is often used as a coping mechanism when it feels like life is spinning out of control. The consequences of the harm feel real and tangible and provide a way to escape (at least momentarily) from the feelings or situation at hand. Some of the most common reasons people self-harm include:
- Struggling to cope with a difficult situation or chronic pain
- Struggling to cope with negative feelings
- Needing a distraction from traumatic memories
- Seeking a feeling of control over one’s body and/or life
- A physical manifestation of asking for help
- A symptom of another underlying issue
Which Treatments Are Effective?
As most of the reasons for self-harm stem from a person’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of a situation in life, the best kind of treatment is usually talk therapies using psychological tools. These kinds of professional therapies are thought to be effective for reducing instances of repeated self-harm and can improve your sense of hope and self-esteem.
Some of the most common therapeutic tools for people struggling with negative and self-harming thoughts include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Neuro Linguistic Programming
- Psychodynamic Therapy and Hypnotherapy
- Mindfulness-based therapies
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A short-term therapeutic tool, CBT can help you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and learn more helpful thought patterns that will in turn transform these feelings and behaviors into more positive ones.
The aim of CBT in cases of self-harm is to reduce the frequency and severity of self-harming behaviors by helping you adapt better to the challenges you face in life. Dialectical therapy (a kind of CBT) aims to teach you emotional management skills and increase your stress tolerance so that you can better cope with life’s ups and downs.
Neuro Linguistic Programming
Neuro linguistic programming or NLP is based on the idea that thought patterns and actions are intrinsically linked. In an NLP session, the therapist teaches you new behaviors with the aim of imprinting these desirable actions on your subconscious mind.
Psychodynamic Therapy and Hypnosis
In psychodynamic therapy, a qualified therapist leads you to explore your past experiences and understand how they have contributed to your current life choices, feelings, and addictive or self-harming behaviors. As an optional step, you can be placed in a gentle state of hypnosis in which you can recall memories in greater detail and come to an even greater understanding about what is causing your current struggles.
Hypnotherapy is used for a variety of conditions and once the root causes have been identified, the therapist can make suggestions to your subconscious mind while you are still in a state of hypnosis — introducing potential solutions, strategies, and positive ideas that can help you solve your challenges proactively and without having to resort to self-harm.
Mindfulness-based therapies focus your attention on the present moment — helping you to let go of the past and the future and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. By focusing on the present moment and experiencing it fully, you are better able to perceive the actions and intentions of others correctly and improve your general sense of well-being.
The Process of Recovery
No matter how frequent or severe your self-harm has become, a full recovery is possible with the right support. An integrative therapy approach combining several tools can help you to understand your feelings better and learn techniques to cope with life in a healthier way.
As you see a therapist individually, it might also be a good idea to join a support group and/or consider family therapy to feel supported in the journey and involve those closest to you in the path towards healing. It’s also essential to focus on your physical fitness and engage in regular self-care activities to boost your mental health. It’s possible to find healthy outlets for feelings of frustration as you learn to face life with resilience and optimism again.