Harm Minimisation

Came across a rather new concept for me today- Harm minimisation. It’s an approach used in working with individuals who self harm. It recognises that life can sometimes be too unbearable for some and self harming may be the only way to cope perhaps for the time being. So, although it doesn’t encourage the act itself, it educates individuals on how to self harm safely. For instance, using a sterile blade to cut instead of a dirty one to prevent infection or cutting lengthwise instead of across to reduce the risk of severing tendons. This approach is also used in other areas in public health such as drug use, safe sex and prostitution. It makes sense in a way but I am not sure if it’s a long term solution (or that it’s meant to be one) as I feel that there are definitely underlying issues to be explored if self harming is elected as a coping mechanism.

I think this quote explains this concept very well:

“Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man but coaxed downstairs one step at a time” Mark Twain (Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, chapter 6), cited an article by Marlatt, Somers and Tapert (1993) on Harm Reduction: Application to Alcohol Abuse Problems.

If you would like more information you can go to this website: Self harm.co.uk or HarmLESS Psychotherapy 


Marlatt, G.A., Somers, J.M., Tapert, S.F. (1993) Harm Reduction: Application to alcohol abuse problems. NIDA research monograph. 147- 166

Naranjo, M. (2012) Webinar on Self-harming Behaviours. Online Events. 23rd August 2012


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