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Treating Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: Experience of Graduate Mental Health Students

23 July 2010


Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is common and rising in clinical and nonclinical populations, particularly among adolescents. Little is known about the training or experiences of graduate mental health students in diagnosing and treating self-injuring clients. In March 2010, students in accredited clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and social work programs across the United States were invited to participate in an online survey. A total of 500 respondents rated and described their training with respect to NSSI as well as their experiences with and perceptions of both clients who engage in self-injurious behaviors and the behaviors themselves. Among other findings, results indicated that 78.1% of students doing clinical practice were seeing clients who engaged in self-injury, but only 21.6% had received formal training on NSSI. Similarly, few students were familiar with self-injury assessment tools. Only 20% believed they knew enough to treat NSSI effectively. The findings suggest that graduate mental health programs should strengthen training and supervision on nonsuicidal self-injury.


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