Q&A with Assistant Clinical Director at Personal Counseling Service Beth Seeger Troy

By Hannah Clere

Editor’s Note: This Q&A goes along with a spread on self harm on Page 4 and Page 5 of the print edition of The Bagpiper on April 21. 

Bagpiper: Define self harm in your own terms.

Beth Seeger Troy: “Self harm is when a person uses an object to inflict pain or harm to his/her body. The object could be part of themselves – fingernail, teeth, fist, pulling own hair, etc.; or it could be outside of the body – scissors, knives, walls, lighters, pencil/pen, paper, paper clip, safety pin, razors, etc.   I would also argue that people harm themselves psychologically/emotionally by refusing to eat, eating too much and vomiting, not accepting others’ love for them, etc.”     

BP: How many people to you see/care for with this problem?

BT: “I have seen approximately 20-25 that came to therapy for that problem.  I have had clients that came in as adults and shared that they used to self-harm when they were younger.  That would bring the approximate number of persons I have seen with this issue to 55-60.”

BP: How do you approach it?

BT: “I view the person who is self-harming as a person who is experiencing emotional pain (or sometimes numbness due to repressing the emotional pain). It is often used as a coping skill in the moment.  I attempt to help persons see there are other healthier coping skills: address possible issues of depression or anxiety; increase self-esteem.”

BP: What methods of treatment do you use?

BT: “Typically I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy techniques and interventions.  I will include family members as necessary.”

BP:What advice to you give to parents?

BT: “Love and accept your child and that he/she is hurting. Just listen without giving advice or passing judgement. Self-harming behavior does not necessarily mean that someone is suicidal.  In fact, it rarely means one is suicidal.  It also does not mean they are looking for attention.  It most often is a poor coping skill, but one that works in the moment.”

BP: What advice do you have for people who are afraid to speak up/considering doing something harmful?

BT: “Find someone you trust and talk to them about the emotional pain/numbness you are feeling. Inflicting physical pain only leaves physical scars and doesn’t address the emotional pain/numbness.”

BP: Do you have any helpful statistics about teenagers struggling with self harm?

BT: “Approximately 15 percent of adolescents have reported self-harming in some way.”

BP: Do you have anything else to add?

BT: “Persons who self-harm all have different reasons why they harm themselves.  It is important for me to understand and to help them understand why they do it and what purpose it serves for them.”

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