Therapeutic Approaches for Managing Trauma and Self Harm: A UK Perspective

By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)

Individuals who have experienced trauma and are engaging in self harm often require specialised therapeutic intervention. These methods are designed to help them overcome distressing memories and stop harmful behaviours. This essay will provide an overview of such therapeutic approaches, with specific reference to the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one recognised method in managing trauma and self harm. This therapy helps individuals understand their thought processes, feelings and behaviours, promoting healthier ways of thinking and acting. NICE guidelines highlight trauma-focussed CBT as a preferable treatment for PTSD, with weekly sessions over a minimum of three months.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) centres around teaching coping skills to regulate emotions, handle distress and improve relationships. As per NICE guidance for self harm, there’s provisional support for the use of DBT in individuals, particularly for those with repeated episodes of self harm.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another recommended therapy by NICE for individuals suffering from PTSD. It involves making side-to-side eye movements while recalling traumatic events, which may reduce the intensity of distressing memories.

Lastly, trauma-informed care embodies a comprehensive approach, acknowledging the prevalence and impact of trauma and promoting environments of healing and recovery. NICE guides underpin its critical importance in building a safe, empowering healthcare setting to facilitate recovery.

In conjunction with therapy, proper medication, as guided by NICE, can further assist those who self harm. Self harm management may include antidepressants or other psychiatric medications, often in synergy with other therapies.

Crucially, these therapeutic interventions aim to provide a unified, yet adaptable approach towards addressing the multifaceted nature of trauma and self harm. In accordance with NICE guidance, employing a personalised course of therapy can yield significant improvements in an individual’s mental well-being and lifestyle, supporting their journey towards recovery.