An End to Self Harming

April 20, 2008 – 3:09 pm

Kirsty is fourteen years old and attends a girls’ High School. Her parents were very distressed to receive a telephone call from the School to say that it had been noticed that when Kirsty changed for PE she had what appeared to be self-inflicted cuts on her arm.

When Kirsty came home that afternoon she had been very angry when asked about this, refused to show her arm to anyone and had shut herself in her bedroom with music turned very loud. Over the subsequent week, she would not speak to her parents and took all her meals upstairs.

Agrees to talk to counsellor

At a meeting with her parents and Year Head, Kirsty still declined to speak about the cuts on her arm but agreed to have an introductory session with a counsellor on condition that she could do this on her own.

When Kirsty first met the counsellor she chatted about school, friendships and home. She agreed to sign a contract which stated that she would not self-harm for one week and allowed the counsellor to check that the cuts, which had been inflicted using a pair of scissors, were not too deep or infected and did not require medical attention.

Identifying worries

Over the following weeks Kirsty was encouraged to identify stressors in her life. She realised that exams and revision were a constant cause of anxiety, especially when she wanted to be out with her friends, having fun. She felt that other peoples’ expectations of her were too high and that she had to make too many sacrifices in order to achieve high grades.

Time planning

Together, she and the counsellor drew up a realistic time planner where she allowed herself sufficient time to revise, time to be with her friends and time to relax. She hoped to be a pharmacist and recognised that she needed certain grades in order to realise her dream.

The timetables were pinned on the fridge at home so that her parents were aware that she was taking responsibility for working when she needed to but also was allowed ‘time off’.

In control without harming

Kirsty stopped self-harming and felt much more in control of her life. She recognised that she had let the stress in her life build up to a point where she was no longer able to communicate how she felt. Once this was identified, she was able to draw up coping strategies to help her to share her concerns and get support from friends and family.

See Self Harm for more information

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