Treating the Cycle of Self-Destructive Behaviors

Many clients with histories of prior trauma and neglect or who have attachment issues lack the ability to engage in appropriate affect regulation.  As a result, they often turn to self-destructive strategies including: self-mutilation; addictions; and eating disordered behaviors to cope and self-soothe.  In this workshop we will explore the relationship between trauma, attachment, and a cycle of self-harm.

Participants will learn about a specific “cycle of self-harm” which emphasizes the impact triggering events, negative cognitions and affect, dissociation, and anxiety have on self-harming behavior. It also provides helping professionals with a concrete model for intervention.

A variety of creative and effective treatment strategies will be offered to help reduce and eventually extinguish the behaviors. Helping professionals will learn specific ways to “work with” self-destructive behaviors without engaging in power struggles, increasing the behavior, or relying on ineffective “safety contracts”. A more effective, alternative contract, called CARESS, will be presented. Clinical case examples, video, clients’ writings and artwork will be incorporated into the workshop. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the relationship between self-destructive behaviors, trauma, attachment and affect dysregulation.
  • Describe a chronic cycle of self-harm and the ways in which dissociation and anxiety influence the process.
  • Identify at least 5 intervention strategies, including CARESS, designed to avoid “power struggles” and eventually extinguish the behavior.

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