Part 2 in a 2-Part Christian Counseling for Self-Harming Behavior SeriesIn my previous article, I introduced the topic of self-harming among teenagers. I looked at the particular risk factors involved with self-injury, as well as the signs that you can watch for to know if your teen may be harming his or herself. I also discussed some of the ways you can support your self-harming teen, including seeking the help of a Christian counselor. In this article, I would like to discuss the reasons why some teens self-harm and elaborate on the many benefits of Christian counseling for your self-injuring teenager.
Reasons Why Teens Self-Harm
There may be deep-rooted wounds and issues the teen is internalizing. The cutting itself is also serving a purpose. Counseling can help to be an avenue to explore the purpose the cutting may be serving for your teen that they may not even acknowledge or be aware of. Some examples may be relieving guilt, expressing feelings they cannot put into words, or even allowing them to feel something if they feel somewhat “numb”. I am intentional about helping teens to put into their own words what the cutting is doing for them at this particular season in their life. This helps them to connect their thought-life and emotions to their behaviors, as well as allows for some gentle ownership and discovery. Coming alongside the teen in a non-judgmental manner in an environment that is sacred to them can be powerful in the healing process. It is also important to talk through the realities of stopping the behavior that is serving a purpose for the teen. Health problems, propelling a life of shame or guilt, as well as the addictive side of cutting are risk factors that are important to talk about in the counseling room or with your teenager as they are sorting through their own motivations to cut. Teens are constantly discovering themselves and wanting their independence, so this offers a way for the teen to acknowledge why they are holding on to the destructive behavior, as well as allows them to choose what decision they want to make in stopping it.
How Christian Counseling Can Help
- Learning how to manage difficult emotions. This helps the teen understand why they may be cutting, which is a crucial part to their recovery.
- Identifying triggers. Self-harm is a way for the teen to deal with pain. Identifying which specific situations and emotions make them want to cut themselves can help alleviate the power the triggers have over the teens behavior.
- Expressing feelings. Being aware of emotions, as well as understanding the behavior and emotion connection, are important for teens in general, let alone ones engaging in self-injurious behavior. Developing emotional awareness helps the teen know what they’re feeling and why. Expressing these emotions in the counseling room is safe and can be constructive, as a teen may not know how to handle intense emotions.
Replacing Negative Coping With Positive Coping
It is important for the teen to replace the negative coping with positive techniques such as journaling, painting, or listening to music that may express what they’re feeling. Each teen is different, but if we can find ways together that can self-soothe, the teen will be less likely to resort to the behavior that is harmful. If a teen is aggressive, making noise, going on a run, or even using a stress ball can be helpful means to let out anger without resorting to harmful cutting. For teens that have a difficulty checking out or feeling numb, chewing gum or talking to a friend on the phone can be helpful ways to connect back when they feel lost.
How to Seek Help in Christian Counseling
Christian counseling can be a wonderful resource for your teen to express their pain and struggles in a non-judgmental environment with a trained professional who can work with both you and your teen to develop better coping skills. It is important for the teen to feel safe and understood, and may take time in finding the right fit. My goal is to help teens discover their own strengths within themselves and to work together at their pace, so we can uncover some of the deep wounds that may be causing them to inflict pain onto themselves. Finding new ways to express themselves and coping in a healthy way are a few of the goals we set together and work toward to promote healing. God is the ultimate healer and longs to reveal his love for each and every one of us. My prayer for my clients is that we would be able to work through the difficulties in life that may have caused them to lose sight of that love and God’s ability and willingness to carry their burdens. The healing process can be slow and painful, but unless we dig up the roots, we are still left with the weeds. I feel honored and called to bring healing through counseling to teens and their families who are struggling with this difficult behavior. It is important to allow your teen time to process through their hurts and encourage you that though the road may be difficult, it can be rewarding both for you and your teen.
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2009). Teens Who Self-Harm. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 22,
2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/teens-who-self-harm/0001962
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