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What Is Self-mutilation And How Do OTs Deal With It?

William Lambert, MS, OTR/L

October 1, 2021



What is self-mutilation and how do OTs deal with it?


Self-mutilation is a maladaptive coping skill for dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Once I asked an adolescent why she cut, and she said, "When I see the blood flow, I feel better." Naturally, it is our job to teach coping skills that are not harmful to one's body. However, I have read that there is a certain euphoria that comes with cutting.

For self-management, how do we help our clients to handle and cope with those uncomfortable feelings better? We can teach self-management strategies for stress, anger, and emotions. Two alternative coping strategies for self-mutilation are holding an ice cube on the skin, which presents a burning feeling, or snapping a rubber band. Both are not going to cause permanent damage. The key is that these are temporary alternative coping strategies.

We want them not to engage in self-harm and develop positive coping strategies through cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and sensory approaches. This is perfect for occupational therapy. We can also work on problem-solving, tactile stimulation, massage, self-soothing, communication skills, and things like that.

william lambert

William Lambert, MS, OTR/L

William L. Lambert, MS, OTR/L holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology and a bachelor’s and advanced master’s degree in occupational therapy. He has over twenty years of experience working with children and adolescents in inpatient and community settings. Currently he holds the position of Faculty Specialist in the Department of Occupational Therapy at The University of Scranton where he teaches the psychosocial-based courses and conducts ongoing research on current preferred adolescent occupations. He developed the Scranton Adolescent Interest Checklist, © as a contemporary assessment tool for use with this population. He authored chapters on children and adolescents in Cara and MacRae’s 2019 textbook Psychosocial Occupational Therapy: An Evolving Process and on posttraumatic stress disorder in Weiss, Morgan and Kinnealey’s A Practitioners Guide to Clinical Occupational Therapy published in 2012. He was the lead author of the psychosocial chapters in the National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam Review & Study Guide published in 2019 and the National OTA Certification Exam Review & Study Guide, both edited by Rita P. Fleming-Castaldy. He is on the editorial board of the journal Occupational Therapy in Healthcare. Mr. Lambert is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association, and the World Federation of Occupational Therapists He has presented numerous times at state and national occupational therapy conferences.

Related Courses

Mental Health of Adolescents: Psychosocial Occupational Therapy for Adolescent Populations
Presented by William Lambert, MS, OTR/L


William Lambert, MS, OTR/L
Course: #5181Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Well-spoken presenter; easy to follow'   Read Reviews
An overview of occupational therapy practice with adolescents experiencing mental health issues, including suicide and the effects of the pandemic will be presented. Common diagnoses, presenting problems, psychosocial stressors and basic concepts used in providing occupational therapy are examined. Occupational therapy programing, assessments, interventions and emerging trends and practice opportunities are identified.

Animal Assisted Therapy As An Adjunct To OT
Presented by Melissa Winkle, OTR/L, FAOTA, CPDT-KA, Phoebe Yam, OTD, OTR/L


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Course: #5411Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'They gave a lot of good information to think about before starting in this area'   Read Reviews
Occupational therapy practitioners who would like to include or improve their inclusion of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in OT practice will benefit from this course. The speakers will provide a general blueprint for continuing education and skill development regardless of experience for both practitioners and the animals.

Psychosocial Considerations in the Pediatric Acute Care Hospital Setting
Presented by Laura Stimler, OTD, OTR/L, BCP, C/NDT


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  'I can relate to this course since I am a COTA/L treating on the PICU'   Read Reviews
This presentation will explore psychosocial issues children and their families experience during acute hospital admissions. Trends and reasons for hospitalizations will be described. Evidence-based occupational therapy evaluation and treatment interventions to address the psychosocial needs of children admitted to the hospital will be described.

Face Masks and Communication - Audiological Implications
Presented by Barbara Weinstein, PhD


Barbara Weinstein, PhD
Course: #4972Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Good information'   Read Reviews
Face masks may impact communication in healthcare settings, particularly for people with hearing loss. Strategies for professionals to use in order to optimize communication for all patients when face masks are worn will be reviewed.

Sensory Health: The Missing Piece in the Wellness Conversation
Presented by Catherine M. Cavaliere, PhD, OTR


Catherine M. Cavaliere, PhD, OTR
Course: #5261Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'The instructor was very knowledgeable, easy to listen to and the way she conveyed the information made it easy to understand'   Read Reviews
This course describes the impact of sensory processing and integration on well-being and the role of sensory health in wellness models as well as the implications for health promotion and prevention through a sensory health lens.

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