Sometimes a person can feel so much emotional pain that they feel the need to physically cause themselves harm. This behavior, known as self-harm, self-injury, or self-mutilation, typically occurs among people with mental health conditions who are struggling to cope with intense emotional stressors. Children or adolescents who are engaging in self-harm typically scratch, burn, hit, punch, scrape, or cut themselves. Some will ingest poisonous chemicals, break their own bones, or take excessive and unnecessary risks.
People who engage in self-harm generally do not do so as an attempt to gain attention. Rather, they feel unable to cope with their emotional stressors, and so they turn to self-harm to try to find relief. Additionally, while people who engage in self-harm are not doing so as an attempt to end their lives, it is possible for them to do so accidentally.
While self-harming behaviors can have painful and even tragic results for individuals and their loved ones, proper treatment can help a young person learn to manage his or her emotional stressors and develop healthier and more effective methods of coping. At Youth Care, we understand the stresses and turmoil that can drive a young person to self-harm, and we provide caring staff members who are well equipped to help students in our programs find healing and healthier ways to cope.
Helping Your Child Get Treatment
Watching one’s child struggle with intense stress and negative emotions is difficult, but watching one’s child turn to self-harm as an attempt to cope can feel nearly unbearable. While witnessing your child experience this sort of pain can be emotionally exhausting, there are certain things you can do to help, such as:
- Remain supportive. Reassure your child that you love him or her and that your love for him or her will not change. Be patient and encourage your child.
- Research self-harm. Consult with mental health professionals who can speak with you about self-harming behavior and give suggestions for how you can help. Also, consider reading about self-harm and researching the behavior.
- Take care of yourself. Being a parent to a child struggling with self-harm is difficult, so make sure to bring a support network around you. Consider joining support groups for parents of children who engage in self-harm.
- Research treatment centers. Investigate treatment options and decide which ones may be a good fit for your child. Also, involve your child in the process. While as the parent, you have final say regarding treatment, treating your child like a partner in the process can help him or her feel more invested in treatment.
- Once your child has begun the treatment program, stay in touch with him or her and speak with treatment staff on a regular basis. Do your best to make sure that your child knows you are supporting him or her every step of the way.
Why Consider Treatment at Youth Care
Young people who struggle with self-harm are at risk for a number of severe negative consequences. They may withdraw from family or friends and become socially isolated, or they may struggle to perform in school, possibly resulting in academic failure or expulsion. Because self-harm often co-occurs withother mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, children and adolescents who engage in self-harm may also be suffering from the negative effects of these other disorders as well. Self-harming behavior is also inherently dangerous. For example, a person who engages in cutting behavior may accidentally cut too deeply and open a major blood vessel. While self-harming behavior is generally not directly related to suicidal ideation, if a person becomes overwhelmed by the symptoms of his or her co-occurring disorders, he or she may think about or attempt suicide. Thankfully, despite the potential for these negative consequences, young people who struggle with self-harm can receive treatment to help them break free from this painful cycle and find healing that can help them live their lives to the fullest.
Types of Treatment Offered at Youth Care
At Youth Care, we offer residential care in a peaceful, structured, home-like setting. In this comfortable, therapeutic environment, adolescents are able to receive the care they need as they work towards overcoming the compulsion to self-harm in a family-like atmosphere that is fully conducive to true and lasting healing. Providing care for youth, aged 11 to 17, we, at Youth Care, are pleased to offer individualized programming that is tailored to meet each adolescent’s unique needs and enhance their already-existing skillset.
The residential program here at Youth Care is based on accountability, responsibility, and respect. A level system is used to provide constructive feedback to the students as they learn to show respect by displaying appropriate behaviors and earning privileges and increased levels of trust. This connection between accountability, responsibility, trust, and privileges is an important life lesson that can be used in our students’ future relationships and implemented as they achieve future successes.
At Youth Care, we believe in honoring the adolescents who are entrusted into our care by helping them understand the choices they have and the natural consequences that can occur as a result of the choices they make. We believe that this not only helps our students learn good decision-making skills, but it also enhances the confidence they have in themselves by showing them that they are capable of making those good decisions.
Throughout an adolescent’s time spent at Youth Care, as he or she works to overcome the compulsion to self-injure, he or she will have the opportunity to participate in the following interventions:
Medication management: The use of certain psychotropic medications may be beneficial in helping to alleviate the distressing symptoms that youth experience. Whether or not medication is used, however, will always be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the particular needs of each adolescent. Students at Youth Care will meet with a psychiatrist once a week, and all medication management needs will be handled by the psychiatrist and Youth Care’s nursing and medical teams.
Individual therapy: Intensive individual therapy is a core component to the therapeutic process here at Youth Care. Students have the opportunity to meet with their primary therapists three times each week. Additionally, students can meet with an addictions counselor once per week if they are struggling with substance abuse concerns.
Group therapy: Group therapy sessions play a major role in the treatment plans of our students at Youth Care. Group sessions are held on a daily basis and are broken down as follows:
- Process groups are held 3 times each week.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) groups are held 1 time each week.
- Recreational therapy groups are held 2 times each week.
- Music therapy groups are held 1 time each week.
- Addictions groups are held 1 time each week.
Family therapy: At Youth Care, we feel strongly that family integration is key in helping our students overcome their urge to engage in self-harming behaviors. Because of this, we work hard to ensure that our students’ families are heavily involved in the treatment process. Family therapy sessions are heldonce each week and are led by each student’s primary therapist. Additionally, Parent Days are held every 6 to 8 weeks, offering educational seminars, multifamily group therapy, parent support groups, family therapy sessions, and family recreational activities.
Recreational therapy: When students engage in treatment at Youth Care to overcome the compulsion to self-injure, they will be offered a well-rounded approach to treatment that incorporates recreational activities into their schedules. Recreational therapy is designed to help students have a successful treatment experience by achieving physical, cultural, and social accomplishments. Recreational activities also provide students with opportunities to learn such valuable skills as teamwork, problem solving, communication, and trust. Furthermore, through participation in recreational activities, students can build better social skills, communication skills, coping skills, and interpersonal skills. They may also develop newfound interests, discover unknown talents, and experience an improvement in their self-esteem. Under the guidance and supervision of our licensed recreational therapist, students participate in in-house and community recreational activities 3 to 7 times per week.
Experiential therapy: In addition to the previously mentioned therapies, students receiving care for self-harming behaviors at Youth Care will have the opportunity to take part in different experiential therapies throughout the duration of their time spent in treatment. The frequency of these experiential therapies will be determined by each student’s primary therapist and may include the following:
- Situational Therapy
- Exposure Therapy
- Expressive Therapy
Community service activities: Students will be involved in community service activities at least twice each month. We have found that having students participate in such activities affords them the opportunity to develop greater empathy and a broader understanding of others, both of which can aid in their own recovery. Examples of the community service activities that students may participate in include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Filling shelves at the Food Bank
- Caring for animals at the Humane Society
- Visiting the elderly
Academics: At Youth Care, we believe that every student deserves to achieve success in school and therefore view our academic programming as a therapeutic intervention. Our academic program is fully accredited, which allows students to earn school credits, increase their knowledge, and work towards achieving academic goals during their time at Youth Care. Students are enrolled in a full day’s curriculum, which takes place in a traditional academic setting and is led by a team of certified secondary education teachers and special education teachers who have been trained to work with students possessing a range of learning abilities. All students have academic goals and objectives included in their individualized treatment plans, and they will attend school from 9:00am to 5:00pm every weekday, with therapeutic interventions being interwoven throughout their daily schedules.
In addition to the residential treatment offered through Youth Care, we are also pleased to provide partial hospitalization programming (PHP) for students who do not require the intensity of the programming that is offered in a residential setting. This day treatment option allows youth to attendthe same daily programming as those receiving residential treatment, yet return home at night.
If your child is suffering from the ongoing compulsion to self-harm and requires a safe, structured, and encouraging environment to work towards overcoming or managing his or her symptoms, look no further than Youth Care. Our specialized programming will be catered to meet your child’s every needs so that he or she can succeed in living the full, happy, healthy, and productive life that he or she deserves to be living.