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Self-injury is a significant issue with a variety of psychological, social, legal and ethical consequences and implications (Froeschle & Moyer, 2004; McAllister, 2003; Nock & Mendes, 2008; White Kress, Drouhard, & Costin, 2006). Self-injurious behavior is commonly associated with the cutting, bruising or burning of the skin. It also can include trichotillomania, interfering with wound healing and extreme nail biting (Klonsky & Olino, 2008; Zila & Kiselica, 2001). In assessing severity, it is important to note that self-inflicted wounds typically do not require any medical attention, as those who engage in self-injury will usually care for any open wounds in order to prevent infection (Walsh, 2006). The typical duration of a self-injurious act is usually less than 30 minutes, resulting in immediate relief from the emotional turmoil precipitating the behavior (Alderman, 1997; Gratz, 2007). It is difficult to estimate the prevalence of self-injury for many reasons. Nock (2009) noted that reports indicating increased estimates in this behavior derive from “anecdotal reports and estimates from small cross-sectional studies” (p. 81). Given the many ethical and legal ramifications involved in working with clients that self-injure, it is important to understand how self-injury typically manifests itself, how it affects differing populations based on gender and cultural differences, and the level of danger it truly represents to the person choosing to utilize it.

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©National Board for Certified Counselors and Affiliates, Inc. (NBCC). This document was published with permission from the journal. It was originally published in the The Professional Counselor.