How Do We Approach Treatment for Self Mutilation?
Self mutilation treatment progress is frequently complicated by a woman’s struggle to release her feelings of self-hatred and anger. Limitations in her capacity to take in expressions of love and her rejection of efforts to help her often push friends and family away. Difficulty in both of these areas, along with inability to express the feelings that motivate her to self-injure can also stand in the way of connecting with treatment professionals. These obstacles can seem insurmountable if she is also experiencing symptoms of substance abuse, eating disorders, or other co-occurring disorders.
Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center understands the challenges faced by women and girls who self-harm. Our mood disorder treatment staff appreciates that without a comprehensive understanding of psychiatric disorders and individualized attention to her emotional needs, treatment efforts may actually worsen a woman’s emotional state.
Our comprehensive treatment approach combines dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) with twelve-step recovery principles into an integrated, holistic treatment program uniquely tailored to helping women who suffer from self mutilation. Dialectic behavioral therapy is a form of integrated treatment combining behavioral, cognitive, and supportive therapies. Developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, DBT emphasizes teaching each woman how to constructively experience her emotions and create a life worth living. DBT works to replace an “either/or” perspective (e.g. either experience emotional chaos, or attempt to manage it through cutting or self-mutilation) with a perspective that allows the resident to develop a “both/and” approach to life.
We Focus on the Underlying Emotional Experience of Self-Harming
Supported by leading mood disorder treatment experts, each resident who self-injures will explore ways to become more mindful of her feelings. Our mood disorders treatment program addresses the each woman as a whole person:
- Social relationships
Each resident also receives coaching and reinforcement in key areas of interpersonal skills, distress tolerance and management, reality acceptance skills, and emotional regulation skills.
One of the benefits of mood disorder treatment at a holistic residential treatment center like Timberline Knolls is that a woman will realize she is not alone, either in experiencing emotional swings, identity issues, or in addressing co-occurring disorders or addictions. We understand the importance of creating an environment where women feel safe expressing their feelings and talking about their symptoms without being judged for what they share. A woman who self-harms will learn from staff and other residents who understand her struggle to make constructive choices when her emotions feel overwhelming.
How Do Treatment Plans Address Self-Injury and Co-Occurring Disorders?
Consideration of each woman’s treatment needs begins during the admissions process. Both the woman and her family provide background about her challenges, symptoms and past behavior patterns. After obtaining consent, we speak to her prior treatment providers to gather additional information about her medical history, self-harming treatment progress and stumbling blocks to achieving or maintaining recovery from other addictions or eating disorders.
In the case of school age women, we coordinate closely with her school to understand the roadblocks her mood disorder and self-injury may have created. We do this to support her in to progressing towards graduation during residential treatment.
Once she is admitted, each resident undergoes a medical assessment and a comprehensive assessment by one of our psychiatrists. She is then assigned a treatment team with three core members, whom she will meet in the coming days:
- A Primary Therapist
- A Family Therapist
- A Psychiatrist
A woman who exhibits symptoms of an unaddressed addictive disorder or other co-occurring psychiatric disorders may undergo additional testing to confirm that her residential treatment program is comprehensive. Each treatment team member also completes a thorough written assessment within the woman’s first days at Timberline Knolls. The findings from these assessments are shared with our entire clinical and medical staff, who agree on the essential components of her treatment.
The primary therapist will discuss treatment recommendations with the woman, who will have input into the goals for her treatment and will choose several elective elements of her program. Each school-age resident will also have input on her academic coursework. She will be asked to sign off on her treatment objectives and the ongoing progression of her treatment plan, giving her input and ownership of her recovery from the outset.
The treatment team will meet weekly throughout the resident’s stay, and members consult each other informally as often as needed to remain abreast of her progress. If new symptoms appear, a resident may undergo additional psychological testing to assure that her mood disorder and self-injury treatment considers all relevant aspects of her mental health.
Additionally, women with medical symptoms or complications from anorexia nervosa, bulimia or chemical dependency may be referred to consulting healthcare providers such as a cardiologist, gynecologist, dentist or nephrologist.
What Will You Experience At Our Treatment Center?
Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment and Recovery
Every woman recovering from self-harming, mood disorders, and addictive disorders must develop tools she can trust to live in recovery when she experiences symptoms or feels the desire to self-injure. We work with our residents to help them identify the conscious choices they are making throughout their day, especially those choices they make when they experience unexplained feelings of self-hatred. Our supportive team offers ongoing compassion and understanding as women learn to use new tools in situations where they would have previously made decisions that led to self-mutilation. As they gain confidence in their ability to make positive, healthy choices, women experience improved self-esteem, body acceptance, reduced stress and anxiety, healing of trauma, and increased self-awareness.
Our comprehensive and individualized treatment plans use approaches proven to help women learn to constructively experience their emotions and develop the tools to recover from self-harm. Specific examples include:
- one-on-one therapy sessions
- expressive and recreational therapy
- education about disease processes and recovery
- group sessions to teach and practice behavior modification and emotion management
- family therapy (including family participation, if appropriate)
- twelve-step facilitation
- onsite and offsite twelve-step meetings of Emotions Anonymous and Self-Mutilators Anonymous, Al-anon, AA, NA and OA
- weekly psychiatric consultation
- trauma awareness and recovery
- educational services for school-age women
Expressive Therapy Provides a Productive Outlet for Complex Emotions
Expressive therapy has been clinically proven to promote healing and recovery, in addition to providing a needed creative outlet for women during their treatment and beyond. For women who may have suffered setbacks in their schooling or career because of self-mutilation, creative arts may be especially healing.
Our expressive therapy program includes a variety of outlets a woman can choose based on her personal interests:
- art therapy in a historical art studio that supports painting, sculpture and other media
- equine assisted psychotherapy
- dance/movement therapy
- empowerment group (experiential trauma recovery)
- self-defense in our on-site fitness facility
- outdoor recreation such as volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton or gardening on our 43 acre campus
Why Do We Focus on Co-Existing Conditions With Self-Mutilation?
- Reduce feelings of self-hatred, shame, or anxiety worsened by psychiatric conditions that we refer to as co-occurring disorders; or,
- Control intense emotions related to unresolved traumatic experiences in her past.
Women suffering from self-injury and co-occurring anorexia nervosa, bulimia, other eating disorders, or chemical dependency face unique challenges that require specialized treatment and support in recovery. For these women, the holistic, integrated treatment approach at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center can inspire a new hope for recovery from a self-mutilation and confidence in a bright future.
Co-occurring disorders are recognized frequently in women who self-harm, but they are not always addressed appropriately by medical and behavioral health professionals who are primarily concerned with addressing other disorders. Medical researchers have found that a large percentage of those who have an addiction or chemical dependency also have at least one other mental illness and/or personality disorder. Co-occurring disorders describe a situation where an addictive disorder persists along with at least one other psychiatric illness that is active and negatively impacts the recovery process. Women with co-occurring disorders tend to have more severe symptoms of each illness and higher potential for relapse.
Examples of other psychiatric conditions frequently co-exist with substance abuse, eating disorders, and other addictions are:
- bipolar disorder
- panic disorders
- eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- various phobias and compulsions
For patients with co-occurring disorders, attempts to treat only the personality disorder, substance abuse, or eating disorder in isolation is at best incomplete, and at worst counterproductive. To facilitate life-long recovery, treatment providers must have an in depth understanding of each disease and the complex interactions between them all.
What Should Parents or Friends Say If They Are Concerned?
Call Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center today to learn more about how our mood disorder treatment specialists may help you or your loved one overcome self-mutilation, eating disorders, addiction, or other co-occurring disorders. We accept women and girls (ages 12 and up) for admission seven days a week.