Helping Teens Who Cut by Michael Hollander is a nonfiction book that explains highly effective behavioral therapy for teens who self-injure. It may seem like an odd pick, but I wanted to get some nonfiction onto my list and this popped out at me during a library visit, so I went with it.
While self-injury is a particularly devastating behavior for parents and adults in a teen’s life, I thought a lot of what Hollander says in this book can be extrapolated beyond self-injury to any type of problematic or dangerous behavior. Also, much of what he discusses can be applied outside of relationships with teenagers to adult relationships as well.
A few things I walked away with, none of which are shocking, but nonetheless worth sharing or refreshing in our minds were:
1) Don’t get stuck thinking you understand why someone is cutting. Most people assume it is for attention but this is really a myth. Why would someone who hides their injury be trying to garner attention? Most teens don’t want anyone to know and are often embarassed of this behavior.
2) Most teens cut to find relief even though the action may cause physical pain. There is ongoing research to try and understand this seeming contradiction. Current literature suggests that there are endorphins and other brain signals that are released during injury that make an individual have a sense of calm and painlessness.
3) Try not to be quick to anger and also try not to be stuck in your own cyclical thinking about the behavior. It becomes common for the adult to get angry and fuel the stress in the teen that drives them to cut. Teens are often quiet about the cutting until they are caught in the act. If this cycle continues it is hard to make change.
4) The teen is probably not lying when they disagree with their parents. Listen to them.
5) Teens are in a part of life where they want to create their own boundaries. Even though as a parent you are concerned, try to respect those boundaries and understand them.
6) The teen is in pain. Never forget how much pain a young person must be in to exhibit this behavior.
Anyway, as a person who interacts with young adults, this was a good read for me just to get thinking about all kinds of stuff – not just the topic of the book.
A great read for anyone interested in child/teen psychology. Really well written and not too long.
Overall rating 4/5
2 comments on “A review of Helping Teens Who Cut”
When I think of the act of cutting, I think of the movie “Secretary” and it being a mechanism to control. Not that I’ve ever cut, but I can see how taking ownership of pain, creating a physical manifestation, and watching it heal could be a vehicle to cope with emotional turmoil.
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I haven’t seen that film but yes I think this provides a mechanism for feeling a sense of control for sure- I very much appreciated the scientific explanation of this behavior.