NICE, psychology and self-harm

Psychological interventions should be offered to people who self-harm to help them overcome their behavioural problems, latest NICE guidance suggests.

Healthcare professionals should offer 3 to 12 sessions of a psychological intervention that is specifically structured for people who self-harm.

The intervention should aim to reduce self-harm and should be tailored to individual need and could include cognitive-behavioural, psychodynamic or problem-solving elements.

Therapists should be trained and supervised in the therapy they are offering to people who self-harm. Therapists should also be able to work collaboratively with the person to identify the problems causing distress or leading to self-harm.

Professor Tim Kendall, Director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health who helped develop the recommendations, said: “Self-harm is very common and involves a wide range of methods, the most common being self-poisoning with prescribed or over the counter medicines, or by cutting.

“People self-harm for numerous reasons, and although self harm is not usually an attempt at committing suicide, it is a way of expressing deeper emotional feelings, such as low self-esteem, the emotional results of previous abuse and hurts.

“However, people who self harm are much more likely to die by suicide, and many suffer from long term physical effects of self injury and self poisoning, as well as psychiatric problems such as depression. It is very important that we help identify people who self harm sooner and to help them come to terms with the underlying problems and access treatment when they need it. This guideline is a really important step to achieving this”.

Read more on the NICE website.