Treating the Cycle of Self-Destructive Behaviors in Adolescent and Adult Trauma Survivors

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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