Counsellors' perspectives on self-harm and the role of the therapeutic relationship for working with clients who self-harm

Maggie Long, Mary Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: To gain insight into counsellors’ experiences of and ideas about self-harm, and to develop understanding of relational depth when working with clients who self-harm. Method: A qualitative exploration of counsellors’ perspectives on working with people who self-harm. The research proposal gained approval from the University Ethics Committee. Data were collected from a sample of counsellors who have experience of working with people who self-harm (n8) using tape-recorded interviews. Grounded Theory was used for analysis. Findings: Two major categories emerged from the findings: (i) the activity of self-harm; (ii) the therapeutic relationship with people who self-harm. These categories and sub-categories were integrated to form the core category. Implications: Counsellors have a valuable role to play in the lives of people who self-harm, by embodying confidentiality and so facilitating a sense of trust, by opening minds through acceptance, and by expanding knowledge through participation in research. Conclusions: In order to effectively accompany clients from a life of self-harm to a life of self-healing, counsellors must be aware of and responsive to the many concepts underpinning the emergent categories of the research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-200
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Sept 2010

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  • self-harm
  • self-injury
  • counsellor perspective
  • therapeutic relationship


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