Self-Harm and Young People – Sally Evans – Day Training, 30th April 2016. Some Thoughts on the day from three participants:

 Sally’s workshop on working with young people presenting with experiences of self-harming was simply brilliant.  She is an engaging and approachable speaker who is clearly knowledgeable and passionate about her subject and generously shared that with all of us.

There was rich diversity of material presented and the break-out sessions for group work allowed everyone to explore their own perceptions of what self-harm might mean both for client and counsellor.   The examples of the kinds of clients that might present and audio clips were not only moving but provide a good starting point for discussion amongst an audience with a diverse range of counselling experience.

Sally’s explanation of the self-harm cycle in young people and working within the stages of initiation and mobilisation was very helpful.  It has given me a greater understanding of this increasingly common phenomenon.

The case histories opened my eyes to the methods that could be regarded as self-harm, not solely those that one can clearly see.  Sally also reminded us that this may not only be a coping mechanism employed by young people but also as a lifestyle choice in later years. We explored the potential for shame that may be experienced by this group of clients and how self-harm is most often carried out in private.  We touched on the minefield of safeguarding surrounding working with these vulnerable individuals.

I was aware that it would be easy to become distracted by my own feelings about the reasons for self-harming, and consequently be unavailable to support the client in the way they need.  This has led me to reflect on what self-care means to me and what support these clients might ask for while they explore this for themselves.   Sally’s metaphor of a calm exterior whilst frantic activity carries on out of sight – the swan – was spot on.

Karen Creed

In my role as host not delegate coupled with the fact that I only work with adults, I was expecting to be interested in the content of the day, but certainly not as much as transpired. I came away impressed by Sally’s delivery of this workshop which has already helped me to identify aspects to take into my adult client work as well as to my supervision. The day, I felt, was informative and challenging, but at all times encompassed a respectful, collaborative open sharing of learning insights, experience and laughter.

Sally’s emphasis on the importance of the therapeutic relationship regardless of modality again reminded me, and others, of the key role in our work of the Core Conditions (Carl Rogers). That in order to begin to explore the very difficult issues of self harm clients need to be able to feel trust in the counsellor/psychotherapist and the therapeutic process, to feel supported and held during their journey, be it brief or longer term, by our empathy and respectful challenge. Clients need us to accept that this is their way of survival now and to hold the hope that behaviours can change, that things can improve and that they are in a safe space in which to begin to explore more helpful ways of coping.

Sally reminded us of just how important it was to keep under review our levels of self awareness as therapists in respect of our own coping strategies and issues which may adversely affect our ‘being fully present’ in our client work. To check what are our own anxieties about working with self harm issues and the different safeguarding aspects which  may be involved. What buttons does this subject press for us? This workshop has prompted me to explore this aspect of myself within supervision in order to ensure I have a safe  level of inner resilience to offer clients. My supervisory relationships, I know from experience, will offer me the Core Conditions and supportive, constructive challenge and hope (and healing laughter) I may well need from time to time – the parallel process.

Thank you Sally for a wonderful day.

Jacqueline Holloway

What a great day! I came to this workshop hoping to learn and understand more about self-harm and ways of working with it in the counselling room; I was not disappointed. Sally was knowledgeable, funny, interesting and so engaging.

I took many things away from this workshop: the importance of understanding the context of where we see our clients, their age and legal implications, our duty of care, the role of parents/family in and out of the counselling room, the impact of social media. I was very much touched by the swan metaphor. The idea that we are swans who, while seeming to be gliding effortlessly, are frantically paddling underneath providing our clients with the right environment (for them to disclose what may be shocking to hear to other people). In that way, we are calmly allowing our clients to just be while containing and nurturing the therapeutic relationship.

Sally also gave us a very easy to understand mini session on Transactional Analysis. As a Gestalt therapist I welcomed the opportunity to learn about another approach and it was interesting to think about their similarities and differences. Overall it was a very enjoyable day, I feel more confident about seeing clients who self-harm. The tools/strategies to use at each state of the self harm cycle were like gold dust to me. I would love it if she came again another time and the opportunity to observe/participate in role play was available.

Marvis Stewart