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The impact of ambivalence on recovery from non-suicidal self-injury: considerations for health professionals

Nicole Gray (School of Psychology, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
Penelope Hasking (School of Psychology, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
Mark E. Boyes (School of Psychology, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 17 February 2021

Issue publication date: 26 November 2021

224

Abstract

Purpose

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a growing public health concern. Continued NSSI is often associated with negative outcomes, yet the behaviour usually serves a purpose for individuals who self-injure (e.g. emotional relief). As such, individuals who self-injure often experience ambivalence about the behaviour. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of recognising ambivalence as a natural and expected part of the recovery process.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws on literature regarding NSSI recovery, ambivalence towards stopping the behaviour and challenges for both clients and health professionals.

Findings

This paper argues that ambivalence towards self-injury can be challenging for both clients and health professionals. Clients may feel shame and sense of failure if they experience a setback; health professionals may experience frustration towards clients who continue to self-injure despite treatment.

Originality/value

Validation of the clients’ experience can have significant positive outcomes in treatment and help-seeking behaviours. Acknowledgement of client ambivalence during the recovery process will serve to validate clients’ experience and facilitate rapport. Health professionals who accept ambivalence as a natural part of the recovery process may experience less frustration with clients who continue to self-injure.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: Mark Boyes is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (Investigator Grant 1173043). Nicole Gray is supported by Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship.

Citation

Gray, N., Hasking, P. and Boyes, M.E. (2021), "The impact of ambivalence on recovery from non-suicidal self-injury: considerations for health professionals", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 251-258. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-07-2020-0093

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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