Self-harming is not so much a deliberate attempt to hurt oneself, but more an attempt to feel better in times of distress.

We know that someone who self-harms is usually in a state of high distress. The self-harming behaviour is often an attempt to alleviate this distress. 

People who self-harm sometimes feel self-harming is the only way out of these feelings. They may not have other sources of support, so self-harm may be the only way they can find to soothe themselves.

While the self-harming behaviour provides an immediate release from their distress, it may be followed by other difficult feelings including:

  • confusion – it can be very puzzling to want to inflict pain on oneself
  • hopelessness – if they are trying to stop self-harming, they may feel hopeless in the face of their urges to do it
  • shame – people may judge themselves and feel ashamed for not being able to cope without self-harm
  • loneliness – self-harm is usually done in private and people can feel alone with it.

 This can create a cycle where these painful feelings trigger further self-harm.

Types of self-harm

The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that about 1 in 10 young people self-harm. However, self-harming behaviours can be found in people of all ages. Young women are more likely to self-harm than young men, though the reasons for this are unclear.

There are many ways that people self-harm. Cutting or burning the skin and pulling out hair are examples, as are binge drinking, having unsafe sex, not eating and excessive drug taking. There are many others.

Some people plan self-harm in advance while, for others, self-harm happens on the spur of the moment. Some people self-harm only once or twice, while others self-harm regularly. 

Self-harming behaviour is usually triggered by a distressing event. Some people will know what triggers their self-harm while others will have little understanding of what triggers them.


Client Reviews

Getting to the bottom of the problem

The focus of counselling for self-harm is to understand the underlying causes. It can be a relief to the client to make sense of their behaviour, and that alone can reduce the pressure they feel and lessen their urge to self-harm.

Once they understand the causes, the client and therapist can also explore changes that the client can make. These may be aimed at reducing triggers or at finding other ways of coping when triggered.

The therapist’s understanding of the client can also make a huge difference. There’s something very powerful about having someone listen to you, understand what you’ve been through and appreciate how hard it’s been for you. When you experience that, you may feel more compassion for yourself.

Lasting results through counselling

Self-harming behaviour is usually treated through counselling or psychotherapy. Medication is not normally used for self-harm.

Our counsellors and psychotherapists have a great deal of experience working with people who self-harm. They are warm, empathic and non-judgmental. All sessions are confidential.

We know that it can be hard to talk about self-harm, and we won’t push you to discuss anything before you feel ready.

You can book an initial consultation online or by contacting us. It’s an opportunity to find out if counselling feels right for you, with no obligation to continue.

It may not be an easy step to take, but we think you’ll be glad you did.

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Our therapists

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One Therapy London

Counselling, psychotherapy, couples counselling in London since 2006

Therapist Barbara Perini
Barbara Perini

Barbara is an accredited member of BACP, holding an MSc in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and adhering to the BACP ethical framework Her approach is open-ended, offering both short-term and long-term therapy Barbara has also trained in Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT), a short-term (16 sessions), semi-structured individual therapy developed for mood...

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Yussef Ferguson

Yussef is a psychodynamic psychotherapist who offers both long and short term personal therapy to individuals He has experience of working with a diverse range of clients and can provide a warm, confidential space to explore and gain insight into any past or present personal difficulties and experiences Yussef works with issues such as anxiety, depression, loss,...

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Therapist Mita Hiremath
Mita Hiremath

Mita has been involved in the field of counselling and psychotherapy for over 30 years and has a wealth of experience working in the voluntary sector, the NHS and private practice She is a qualified counsellor and psychotherapist Additionally, she holds an MSc in Psychotherapy and is a trained EMDR therapist She has also facilitated support groups in the voluntary...


Therapist Janis Dellner
Janis Dellner

Janis offers an empathic, non-judgmental and safe environment where her clients can explore the issues that are currently troubling them  Janis works collaboratively to explore and challenge thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are no longer serving her clients’ wellbeing, interests and relationships with themselves and others  She believes it is through the...

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Therapist Silvi Naskinova
Silvi Naskinova

Silvi is a psychodynamic psychotherapist offering both long- and short-term therapy  She aims to provide a safe, supportive and non-judgmental space for her clients to explore whatever is on their minds Her work helps individuals understand how their experiences (both past and present) and any unconscious forces might be impacting their relationships and ways of coping...

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Therapist Ben Marks
Ben Marks

Ben is an experienced psychotherapist who has helped many people through difficult times in their lives He works with clients with a wide range of personal issues around depression, anxiety, bereavement, trauma, abuse, loneliness, stresses within the workplace, low self esteem, relationship and sexual problems including performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction and...

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Therapist Nicola Reeves
Nicola Reeves

Nicola is a psychodynamic psychotherapist and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapist Nicola believes in giving clients time and space to approach therapy in the way they need to approach it She finds this is the best way to develop a therapeutic relationship that allows feelings to be truly explored and evaluated As a psychodynamic...


Therapist Asma Gharbi
Asma Gharbi

Asma offers psychodynamic, humanistic and integrative therapies to individuals and couples She tailors her approach to meet the needs and preferences of her clients She offers short and long term therapy Asma provides a non-judgemental space for her clients, where they can feel safe to explore their feelings, make sense of their experiences and forge deep lasting...

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Therapist Shelly Klein
Shelley Klein

As a psychodynamic therapist Shelley brings a wealth of experience to her work and supports her patients to talk about those aspects of their lives they are finding painful, upsetting or difficult to deal with, in a confidential, non-judgmental and peaceful setting Shelley is particularly interested in working with those who are experiencing depression, bereavement, high...


Therapist Tom Deitch
Tom Deitch

Tom is a popular and approachable psychotherapist who has extensive experience working with people from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds He brings a wealth of life experience, training and understanding to his work, offering help with depression, trauma, anxiety, abuse, sexual problems, addiction, relationship difficulties and many of the other obstacles life...

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