Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) occurs when individuals cause physical harm to themselves. NSSI may take many forms, but often is done to overcome feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, depression, or anger. While occasional suicidal thoughts may be present, NSSI is generally done without suicidal intention. You should always take self-injury seriously and seek help for the behavior.

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Research with secondary school and young adult populations have generally found that 12 – 24% of young people have self-injured, with one study finding 47% of adolescents had engaged in some form of NSSI during the previous year. Non-suicidal self-injury typically begins in mid-adolescence, with studies finding the average age of onset to range from 12 to 15 years of age (International Society for the Study of Self-Injury, 2017).

HEAL - Your Best Choice to Address Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

At Dominion Hospital, you’ll find the only program in the Northern Virginia and metropolitan Washington, D.C. region specifically tailored for those who harm themselves, HEAL. Beyond our standard care plan, our Healthy Emotional Actions for Life (HEAL) program adds a set of physician-ordered group sessions to help participants focus on underlying issues and develop positive coping skills, rather than the act of self-injury. HEAL is rooted in a model of individualized, clinically driven, and evidence-based care. HEAL’s goal is to integrate modalities to treat the whole individual, and for patients to learn new healthy skills to more effectively cope with and communicate around unpleasant emotions.

HEAL integrates traditional Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) components such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation along with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) principles, by not attempting to directly change or stop a person’s thoughts feelings, or emotions, but instead encouraging the development of a new approach to coping with them. We believe that an integrated, individualized, patient-centered, and holistic program, in combination with the appropriate social support, can help individuals and families gain mastery over NSSI and other mental health problems.

HEAL is grounded in the following principles:

  • Empowering patients to recover
  • Human capacity to change
  • Evidence-based treatments
  • Family and social support are the cornerstones of recovery
  • Trauma informed care

By completing the program, participants are better:

  • Able to identify underlying emotions behind their behavior
  • Educated about ways to cope with their emotions more positively
  • Prepared to handle possible obstacles as they continue treatment

Our unique approach successfully helps participants face—and relinquish—harmful behavioral responses to given situations while building more productive skills to cope with life’s challenges.

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Review a range of mental health topics, including NSSI, and special information about child and teen health issues in our online Health Library.

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