Major Depression and Cutting

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve been battling with depression for about 5 years, which has recently lead to self destructive behavior. I cut my arms and bruise myself on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day.

The cutting is especially out of control and I don’t know how to stop. I’ve been to 14 therapists since I was 4. I recently switched therapists unwillingly and it has taken a toll on me. My current therapist abhors the fact that my old therapist told me she loved me all the time, which has made her ignore myself harm problem and, instead, concentrate on my emotional detachment from my old therapist.
I’m a kind-hearted person, so it’s hard for me to express how I feel to my therapist about how she doesn’t focus on my real problem. I was wondering if you have any suggestions on how I can get my point across about how I need help to stop cutting.

When I bring it up to her, she just says “I don’t know what to tell you. You just have to find other coping skills.” I’m so close to completely giving up because I’ve had no luck with therapists. Please help me out on how to effectively communicate with my therapist.

A. I know you’ve been to many therapists and you want to give up but please don’t. I understand that it has to be frustrating to have gone through many therapists and to have been unable to find one who can help. Your current therapist is focused on a subject she perceives to be an issue but you find irrelevant. Instead of trying to spare her feelings you need to speak up and tell her the truth about what you consider to be the real problem, which is cutting and depression. That is how you start effectively communicating what you want out of therapy.

Therapy isn’t about making friends with the therapist. In your case, it has to be about helping you find a way to stop harming yourself. You said that when you bring it up she tells you “I don’t know what to tell you. You just have to find other coping skills.” Your response to this should be “okay you’re right I realize I need to develop healthy coping skills. Will you help me do this?” If they can’t, find another therapist.

Effective communication requires that you be honest about what you want and need from therapy. Don’t worry about sparing your therapist’s feelings. Also, please realize that she can’t read your mind nor should you expect her to eventually “figure out” what you need from therapy. You don’t have time for eventual results. You need help now. You’ve been dealing with these issues for the majority of your life. Effectively communicating what you need begins with you being assertive and honest in therapy. Keep me updated on your progress.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Major Depression and Cutting. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/06/22/major-depression-and-cutting/