‘What Are the Challenges That Face a Psychotherapist Working with Self-Harm or Eating Disorders?

Module Five Essay Title:

‘What are the challenges that face a psychotherapist working with self-harm or eating disorders?



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In this essay I will attempt to discuss the challenges that face a psychotherapist working with self-harm and eating disorders; by explaining what self harm is and the possible triggers of self harm. I will also look at some of the different psychological theories associated with self harm such as Cognitive behaviour therapy, Person centred therapy and Psychodynamic approach and discuss how Carl Jung’s Shadow archetype influences treatment. I will also include issues in relation to ethical perspectives and show awareness of personal responsibility. Although the main focus of this essay is on self-harm, I will also discuss eating disorders and their relationship to self-harm.


Self-harm can be said to be the act of self-inflicting physical attacks on the body (Gardner, 2001).   In self-harming, the client aims to deliberately, and usually habitually harm their body but not to destroy or kill it.   Levitt et al (2004 ) also reiterates that the act of self-harming is an attempt to draw attention to one’s plight or to scream for help rather than an attempt to achieve death.   Self-mutilation and self-starvation are said to be pleas for recognition (Hewitt, 1997 cited in Levitt et al,). Gardner reiterates that self-harming is a metaphoric representation of earlier psychic wounds and also internalised processes obtained from early object relationships (Gardner, 2001).   She sees both our real experiences of and our fantasies about parental and other figures/objects as internalised and being embedded in the way we...