Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Assessing the Effectiveness of a Self-Injury Treatment Pilot Training Program

Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Assessing the Effectiveness of a Self-Injury Treatment Pilot Training Program

Article excerpt

Definition of Self Harm

Self-injury is self-inflicted bodily harm of a socially unacceptable nature performed to reduce psychological distress (Craigen, Healey, Walley, Byrd, & Schuster, 2008). Examples of common outward manifestations of self-injury include cutting, burning, and interference with wound healing. Nock and Prinstein (2005) estimate the prevalence of self-injury in adolescent community samples to range from 14% to 39% while Whitlock, Eells, Cummings, and Purington (2009) project that as many as 35% of the college population engage in some form of self-harming behaviors. Further, Whitlock et al., (2009) determined that college mental health providers, secondary school counselors, nurses, and social workers perceived an increase in clients who self-harm within their professional arenas. Additionally, Purington and Whitlock (2004), two leaders in the field of self-injury, argue that all youth serving professionals play a critical role in identifying and treating self-injury. Thus, there is evidence that self-injury is on the rise within both a clinical and community population, confirming the need for human service professionals to place themselves in a position where they can identify, respond to, and intervene with clients who self-injure.

Rationale for Increased Training in Human Services

There is a clear need for the human services field to respond to this rising epidemic. In fact, Trepal and Wester (2007) indicate that as the amount of training increases, the prevalence of reporting incidences of self-injury in minors increases. Additionally, Trepal and Wester (2007) argue that with more training the more likely a professional is to recognize and respond to self-injury. Unfortunately, the reality is that many human service professionals are not adequately trained to work with clients who self-injure (Crawford, Geraghty, Street, Simonoff, 2003). In fact, self-injurious behavior is the least understood behaviors among adolescent mental health problems (Purington & Whitlock, 2004). Oftentimes, helping professionals refuse to work with clients who self-injure and label them as manipulative and difficult to treat (Favazza, 1998). Collectively, these studies, among others within the mental health field, indicate improper treatment leading to potentially long-lasting psychological effects on clients (Arnold, 1995; Favazza, 1998; Favazza & Conterio, 1989; Levenkron, 1998; Shaw, 2002). Given the alarming rates of self-injury coupled with the lack of training and understanding of self-injury, we argue that there is a need for pre-service training on the topic of self-injury.

At the present time, a review of the accreditation information in counseling and human services demonstrate that self-injury is often not a part of the curriculum in counseling and human service programs (Council for Standards in Human Service Education [CSHSE], 2010); Trepal & Wester, 2007). In fact, mental health problems are rarely addressed in human service programs. Yet, working with clients who self-injure is applicable to the role of the human service professional, especially as she or he acts as a broker, advocate, teacher, behavior changer, mobilizer, and caregiver (Neukrug, 2008). Additionally, human service professionals are often the first point of contact for the client as a case worker, residential staff member, intake interviewer, child advocate, or as another front-line position (Craigen, 2008). Thus, while human service professionals do not provide in-depth therapeutic work with clients who self-injure, they likely encounter individuals who self-injure, and their knowledge and awareness of this issue is paramount to empathic support and linking these clients to appropriate services.

This study seeks to fill the gap in the literature by examining the impact of a pilot training program on human service and counselor trainees' awareness, knowledge, and skills of self-injury. …

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