I could not find any metaphors to tie these two-I am sure there are many…for me at times its best to keep it as simple and direct as possible keeping in mind the sensitivity of the topic and the young clients that I work with. Summer has had an influx of teens that are as they say “being discovered’ by their parents or other faults as having self harm behavior-and they blame it on the weather and their clothing….no matter what the reasons are…one thing is sure that this needs to be addressed and expressed in many ways and creative arts has been a window of opportunity for some of these youth who have chosen to explore this medium. Some techniques that are based on the technique of focusing can be modified and used in various ways. I have found useful are:
Creating a Safe Space: Using art materials an image of the felt sense of the safe place is created. Once the client does this step, it may be fine to just stop here. This is an important step in creating a safe place within that the client can always choose to return to, whenever she or he needs to. The client can also embody this safe space and using movement, music and gestures could use it either as an intervention technique or calming technique.
2. Safe Space/Creating Distance: Once the client creates the safe space, and can clearly make connection to it when she or he needs to, then the client can move to place all the things between her/him and feeling all fine. Beginning with the safe place, in the art form, the client uses the art materials to symbolize the issues in the way of feeling all fine. Possibilities include, drawing symbols of each issue, or writing, onto pieces of construction paper; tearing or cutting into shapes papers to represent each issue; or using clay, beads, or other objects to symbolize the issues. These objects or papers are then placed at a distance that feels right to the client, from the safe place. The client resonates, or checks inside for a feeling of rightness as well as to check whether there is some more space inside. If the client connects with the image/art piece, it may be helpful to have the drawing/image present during subsequent sessions. When the client focuses on the experience, invite the client to sense the whole feel of it in her or his body.. While creating the art, the client resonates the handle (image/symbol), checking for a right fit.
More information on self harm and creative arts can be found in:
BY: Priya Senroy *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I recently conducted a series of interviews for a research project where a number of the participants were adolescents. While speaking with the youth it was hard not to notice how many of these individuals presented with major scarring up and down their arms from what I assume, were repeated engagements in self-harming behaviours. This observation was the impetus for investigating the role of the school counsellor in the prevention and intervention of self-harming behaviours. In the literature, self-harming behaviour is most often referred to as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and is defined as the intentional destruction of body tissue that is not culturally sanctioned and is without conscious suicide intent. The most common forms of NSSI are reported as self-cutting, scratching, burning and hitting. North American prevalence rates for NSSI in the adolescent population range from 15-28% with the age of onset ranging between 13-15 years (Heath, Baxter, Toste, & McLouth, 2010).
Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I was watching Dr. Drew the other night and they were talking about teens that self-harm. I was reminded of a girl that I worked with in a residential treatment centre who had an affliction for inflicting pain on herself by cutting. One night the night shift staff did such a good job searching her room that they had taken all the sharp objects out of her room. When I came in on the morning shift, they had had such a rough night with her; not sleeping, acting up. They were really worried about her (let alone frustrated after a long night). When I talked with her I tried to understand why she was so agitated. She pointed out to me that I smoked. I said yeah (this was a long time ago – when smoking was still cool). She asked how I felt when I ran out of cigarettes, even though I knew I could still get more. I had to admit that I felt a little panicked. She indicated that that is how she felt when they cleaned her out. She didn’t feel safe; she felt anxious. From that point on – for the next few days – it was sufficient for her to bring out of her room one or two sharp objects at bed time. She wasn’t suicidal and it seemed that by bringing out the one or two items she was saying, “I could have, but didn’t.” In other words “I’m safe tonight.” That wasn’t to say she stopped altogether though. When I asked her what she got out of cutting in other discussions with her, she indicated that she got a rush out of it. When she was feeling bad, or, in her case a lot of the time, guilty, she would cut to feel better. One night she came back to the centre from an unsupervised outing visibly stoned. She tried to hide it and tried to go straight to her room; head hung low. Rather than scolding her and making her feel guilty (which would have likely resulted in more cutting), I thought I’d throw her for a loop and congratulate her. She was surprised and asked what I was congratulating her for. I said that it was obvious that she was feeling bad and was looking for a different way to get a rush to feel better. I was congratulating her for trying something different than cutting to get the rush. She was a little stunned, but I think I was successful in planting a seed in her brain; not a seed that drugs are good, but a seed that she was looking for something different. Looking for something different was the first step in reaching her goal of feeling better. Conversations from that point on were around exploring other – non-harmful – ways to get that same rush (i.e. exercising until you puke was one of the suggestions we came up with) and to set goals around that.
A good counselor doesn’t tell the client what their goals are. They find them from the stories the clients tell. Her cutting was an attempt at feeling better. Her goal was to feel better, not hurt herself. Once she realized that there were other options, she was more open to exploring other; less harmful options. Only by truly listening do we find the gems that we can then turn around to help a client find ambiguity. Once they find ambiguity, they start to search for alternative solutions to clear up the ambiguity. She didn’t know she was looking for other ways to feel better, but I was able to help her think she was. Or maybe I’m just manipulative 😉 *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA