Self-harm is a behavior where a person will intentionally cause harm to themselves through a variety of methods such as cutting, burning, or hitting oneself. It is often the case that young people who harm themselves have experienced some form of trauma that is causing ongoing emotional distress. Instead of being able to properly cope with these feelings, they turn to self-injury as a means of relief. Children and adolescents who self-harm often have a hard time expressing and regulating their emotions. Also, the mixture of emotions that trigger these behaviors can be complex, often involving feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, anger, rejection, or even self-hatred. Although self-harm can be difficult to overcome, with proper treatment, it is possible.
At Millcreek Behavioral Health, we recognize how difficult it can be for parents to have a child who is struggling with a mental health disorder, which is why we offer specialized programming designed specifically to help meet the sensitive needs of these children and adolescents. We have many years of experience working with children who are suffering from a number of mental and behavioral health concerns, including self-harming behaviors. At Millcreek, we provide children with the therapeutic interventions they need in order to overcome their challenges, allowing them to lead happy, healthy lives.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member Get Treatment
Since self-harm is usually done in secret, it can be difficult to recognize if your child has a problem. As a parent, it is important to watch out for any possible signs that could indicate the presence of self-harming behaviors. Some of the signs your child may be harming him or herself can include:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises, scrapes, or burns
- Wearing long sleeves and baggy pants, even in hot weather
- Lack of motivation or interest in anything
- Changes in eating habits
- Signs of low self-esteem
- Alcohol or drug use
If you discover that your child is self-harming you may be overwhelmed with feelings of shock, anger, and concern. However, it is important that you remain calm and reassure them that you are there for them. Listen to them if they want to talk, but do not pressure them into doing so. Reach out to your family physician who can fully evaluate your child and provide you with references for a mental health professional.
Why Consider Treatment at Millcreek Behavioral Health
While self-harm may provide a sense of relief, this is only temporary and does not resolve the underlying problem. If a child or adolescent does not address the underlying reason for his or her self-harming behaviors, it can later change into other addictive behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse. Additionally, self-harm can cause a number of other complications, such as worsening feelings of shame and guilt, infection from wounds, and permanent scars or disfigurement. In severe cases, self-harm can lead to life-threating problems such as blood loss if major arteries are cut.
Residential treatment centers have proven to be successful in helping children and adolescents overcome the struggles that they face as a result of self-injury. Through a residential program, your child can begin to open up and begin to talk about the emotional pain he or she is experiencing. Additionally, your child can learn skills that will help him or her manage distress and regulate emotions, boost self-image, and improve problem solving skills.
By participating in a residential treatment program, children and adolescents will also be surrounded by other children who are facing similar challenges to the ones that they are, which often results in the development of a sense of confidence that aids in the healing process as these children come to realize that they are not alone. The intensity of the support and the thoroughness of the treatment that children receive in a residential program can have a dramatically positive influence on each child, as well as on his or her future.
Program Philosophy and Benefits
At Millcreek Behavioral Health, we are dedicated to helping children and adolescents confront their challenges and learn to make better choices in all aspects of their lives; changes that will continue to positively affect them as they grow. We strive to meet all of our clients where they are at, tailoring treatment plans to meet each unique set of needs. We approach treatment utilizing an integrated, multicomponent program model that is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has proven to be effective in treating a wide variety of populations and a wide variety of diagnoses. CBT is an evidence-based model that works by targeting thinking errors, correcting maladaptive thoughts, and replacing them with new coping skills and problem-solving techniques. The members of our highly trained and qualified treatment team work with every child to facilitate change and to help him or her learn to take responsibility for the changes that he or she needs to make.
Types of Treatment Offered at Millcreek Behavioral Health
When children and adolescents come to us for treatment, they will first undergo a thorough diagnostic assessment and a psychiatric evaluation. These tests allow us to gain a full understanding of any presenting concerns and to identify specific treatment needs. The findings of these assessments will be used by an interdisciplinary treatment team to develop a master treatment plan that will then be reviewed by our center’s psychiatrist. This master treatment plan will specify the objectives and treatment goals that are unique to each client, including specific intervention components that will aid in meeting the child’s needs.
The program model at Millcreek is divided into four distinct phases, which include:
- Why am I here?
- Making the connection
- Learning new skills
All residents are required to complete all aspects of each phase in order to advance to the next. Some of the treatment methods that will be used, and some of the activities that residents will participate in, as they advance through programming may include the following:
Medication: While there are no medications that specifically treat self-harm, your child may be placed on medication to help any symptoms of depression or anxiety he or she may be experiencing. Children who are placed on medication will be consistently monitored by their treatment teams in order to ensure the therapeutic effectiveness of the medications, as well as to make any changes that may be necessary.
Group therapy: Group therapy is held multiple times throughout the week, with sessions that cover a wide range of topics. The groups that the children participate in will be determined based on their individualized treatment plans, but some of the topics that are covered in these group sessions may include coping skills, social skills, self-soothing, and behavior management.
Recreational therapy: All of the children and adolescents in our programs will participate in recreational therapy, which includes participating in activities such as art therapy, gym, sports, social outings, adventure programs, and leisure. These activities are designed to aid in the development of appropriate social skills.
Education: Every child and adolescent that we treat at Millcreek attends our fully accredited school program, which is held Monday through Friday. Each child will be given a distinct, individualized education plan based on his or her specific academic needs.
Depending on the treatment track in which your child is enrolled he or she may also participate in some, or all, of the following:
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Individual therapy
- Family therapy
- Student council
- Therapeutic job / activity program
Continuing Care and Levels of Treatment
Once your child has completed the residential treatment program here at Millcreek, a case manager will meet with you and your child in order to help identify what the next best plan of action should be. These case managers can help schedule any necessary follow-up appointments with outpatient providers and can assist you and your child in finding and contacting resources that are available for support within your community. For those patients who qualify, there is also the option of entering into a waiver program where individuals can return home and still receive any additional assistance with daily living skills that may be needed.