Self Harm Treatment

We Help Adolescents and Teens Stop Self-Harming

Understanding Why Youth and Teens Engage In Self-Harming Behavior

When your child or a family member is grappling with emotional distress and resorts to self-injuring as a coping mechanism, you're likely experiencing feelings of unease and concern for their well-being. Know that you are not alone.

Self-harm is a complex public health issue that affects many young people, and it can be difficult to know where to turn for help as a parent.

Thankfully, there are treatment programs and therapies available that are designed to help youth and adolescents stop self-harming and develop new coping mechanisms that are healthier and safer.


At Trails Carolina, we offer a comprehensive, outdoor-based therapeutic program specifically designed to help youth and adolescents who are struggling with repeated self-harm and other mental health conditions.

Our program combines evidence-based therapies with the healing power of nature to create a transformative experience that can help youth and adolescents build the skills and resilience they need to overcome the urge to self-harm.

In an emergency, you can contact a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or use the Lifeline Chat. Services are free and confidential. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in the U.S. has a Spanish language phone line at 1-888-628-9454 (toll-free).

Here's How Our Program Addresses Self Harm in Teens:

what is wilderness therapy

Harnessing A Therapeutic Environment

Trails Carolina, in addressing self-harm, harnesses the healing potential of the outdoors:

  • Reconnection with Nature and Self: Amidst the serene wilderness, young individuals find respite from life's pressures. Here, they rediscover their connection to nature, themselves, and peers.
  • Building Resilience and Confidence: Engaging in outdoor adventures like hiking and camping promotes personal growth, self-esteem, and resilience. These experiences empower students to overcome self-harm tendencies and nurture self-assurance.
  • Therapeutic Wilderness Environment: Trails Carolina's seasoned staff offers a structured and secure space for youth and teens to explore the root causes of self-harm. They develop healthier coping strategies and gain a sense of self-efficacy in the process.
wilderness adventure therapy

Individualized Treatment Planning

Additionally, our program includes:

  • Tailored Evaluation and Treatment: Self-harm is a complex issue and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. At Trails Carolina, our mental health therapists work closely with your child and your family to develop an individualized treatment plan designed to help your child overcome self-harm and related challenges. Thorough assessments identify each student's unique needs, allowing for personalized self-harm intervention plans.
  • Evidence-Based Therapies: Our skilled therapists employ clinically proven methods, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing, to address the underlying causes of self-harm and equip students with effective coping mechanisms.
  • Supportive Group Dynamics: Participation in group therapy sessions and communal living fosters support, healthy relationships, and shared experiences, helping youth and teens overcome self-harm tendencies.
Students at Trails Carolina engage in therapeutic creative activities.

Creative Intervention Strategies

Our approach incorporates creative strategies for self-harm intervention:

  • Expressive Arts Therapy: Creative activities like art and outdoor ventures provide an outlet for self-expression, facilitating emotional healing and a deeper understanding of self-harm triggers.
  • Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: We teach mindfulness and relaxation techniques that empower youth and teens to manage stress, control emotions, and reduce self-harm urges.
  • Life Skills Development: Vital life skills such as problem-solving, effective communication, and sound decision-making equip youth and teenagers with the tools to effectively manage self-harm tendencies and navigate life's challenges.

Remember, seeking help for self-harm is a brave and important step towards healing. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to overcome self-harm and lead a fulfilling life.

91% of students reported experiencing continued improvement in depression and anxiety between starting Trails Carolina and one year post-graduation.

What is Self Harm?

Sometimes referred to as deliberate self-harm, self-mutilation, or non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), self-harm refers to the act of intentionally hurting oneself. It is often used as a coping mechanism to manage distress, overwhelming or difficult emotions, stress, or trauma. Self-harm behaviors can take many forms, including cutting the skin with sharp objects, burning, scratching, hitting, biting oneself, or engaging in unsafe sex.

Although self-harm is not categorized as a mental illness, it frequently signals an underlying mental health condition, like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to a 2020 article published by University Health, approximately one in five adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 report intentionally self-harming.

Teen girl leans against a wall with a far-away expression on her face.

Why Do Young People Self Harm?

Many factors can contribute to self-harming behavior in youth and adolescents. Some common factors that lead one to self-injure include:

  • Intense emotional pain: Young people may turn to self-harm as a way to cope with painful emotions or trauma that they have experienced.
  • Overwhelming stress: Stressful situations such as school, family problems, or social pressures can lead to self-harm.
  • Mental health conditions: Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, substance use disorder, or bipolar disorder can lead to self-harming behavior.
  • Bullying: Bullying can be a significant factor contributing to youth and adolescent self-harm. The emotional and psychological trauma resulting from persistent bullying can drive some individuals to self-injure as a way to cope with the pain and distress caused by these experiences.
  • Peer pressure: Some young people may engage in self-harm due to peer pressure or a desire to fit in with a certain group.

The Difference Between Self-Harming and Attempting Suicide

It is important to note that self-harming is not the same as attempting suicide. While self-harm behaviors can be dangerous and may result in unintentionally life-threatening harm, it is not typically a suicide attempt, but rather an attempt to use the sensation of physical pain as a way to numb out negative emotions.

Still, self-harm is a high-risk behavior that, if left unaddressed, can lead to a higher risk of suicidal thoughts, permanent physical damage, or accidental death.

If you or someone you know is grappling with self-harm, it is crucial to seek professional treatment. Effective treatment options, including trauma-informed therapy and medication for underlying mental health conditions, are available. Wilderness therapy programs, such as the one provided by Trails Carolina, can also offer an effective approach for youth and teenagers contending with self-harm, combining various therapeutic modalities to provide holistic care and support for those in need.

In an emergency, you can contact a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or use the Lifeline Chat. Services are free and confidential. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in the U.S. has a Spanish language phone line at 1-888-628-9454 (toll-free).

Trails Carolina’s therapeutic programs for youth and teens engaging in self-harm are dedicated to helping them build trusting relationships with their family and peers, achieve academic success, and work through behavioral and emotional difficulties.

How to Recognize Self-Harming Behaviors in Your Child

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of self-harm in your child.

Here are some symptoms and warning signs of self-harming behaviors:

  • Unexplained cuts, bruises, scars, or burns on the body
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants even in hot weather to cover up cuts or scars
  • Frequent isolation or withdrawal from friends and family
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness
  • Poor impulse control
  • Expressing hopelessness or suicidal thoughts
  • Struggling to express emotions
Managing A PDA Meltdown: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

How Does Self-Harm Present Differently Across Age and Gender?

Self-injuring behavior tends to present differently based on age and gender. It's important to understand these age and gender differences to provide tailored support and interventions for individuals struggling with self-harm.

Self-harming in Teen Girls vs. Teen Boys

According to a research study published by Cornell University in 2010:

  • Teen girls are more likely to engage in cutting or scratching as a form of self-injury
  • Teen boys are more likely to engage in self-harm techniques such as hitting or punching objects or themselves, potentially leading to self-bruising or broken bones.
  • Teen girls are more likely to use self-injury as a means to cope with intense emotions, body image concerns, or trauma, primarily stemming from internal emotional distress.
  • Teen boys' self-harming behaviors are more likely influenced by external factors, including externalizing problems and peer pressure.
helping at-risk youth - behavioral problems in girls

Self-injury in Young Children vs. Teens

According to Riley Children's Health of Indiana University Health:

  • Children are less likely to intentionally self-harm. Young children may not have the vocabulary or emotional intelligence to express difficult emotions, so they may instinctively resort to physical behaviors like self-pinching, self-biting, or head-banging. This is a coping mechanism that can release endorphins which can temporarily make the child feel better.
  • Teens are more likely than children to intentionally self-harm. Teenagers may feel lonely, worthless, or empty inside and use self-harm as a way to feel better, if only for a moment.

At Trails Carolina, we understand that self-harm is a complex issue that requires a personalized approach. Our program segments students by gender and age into peer groups to provide a safe and supportive environment for youth and teenagers to explore their emotions and develop healthier coping skills. Our experienced staff works closely with each student to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses their unique needs, challenges, and goals.

What Treatment Options, Therapies, and Approaches Work Best for Putting a Stop to Self-Harm in Teens and Youth?

Effective strategies to address self-harm in youth and teens typically involve a combination of treatments, therapies, and supportive approaches. Here are some of the most successful methods:

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

One of the most effective therapies for self-harm is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which focuses on emotional regulation and coping skills. DBT teaches individuals how to identify and manage intense emotions in a healthy way, rather than resorting to self-harm.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Another therapeutic technique for addressing self-harm and its underlying causes is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps individuals identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is another method used in addressing adolescent self-harm. This type of therapy delves into unconscious processes as they manifest in one's behavior with the goal of fostering self-awareness and enabling them to comprehend how past experiences shape their present actions. This can be particularly helpful when the youth or teen's self-harming behavior is tied to trauma or PTSD.

Mental Health Medication

In addition to therapy, medication such as antidepressants may be prescribed by a doctor or mental health professional to help manage symptoms of depression or anxiety that may be contributing to self-harm. It is important to note that medication alone is not a solution and should be used in conjunction with therapy and other approaches.

Support Groups, Friends, and Family Members

Support groups can also be helpful for individuals struggling with self-harm. These groups provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and receive support from others who are going through similar challenges.

Get started today

Contact us today to learn how Trails Carolina can help your family

Contact Us LP

Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022



Wilderness therapy is a type of outdoor experiential therapy that involves taking students out of their everyday environment and immersing them in nature.

The goal is to help youth and teens build self-awareness, self-esteem, and emotional regulation skills through engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.

Wilderness therapy for self-harm treatment specifically focuses on replacing the urge to self-harm with healthy coping strategies, such as mindfulness and grounding techniques.

One of the main benefits of wilderness therapy for self-harm treatment is that it provides a unique and immersive experience that can help youth and teens build resilience and self-confidence.

Additionally, the physical activity and time spent outdoors can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to self-harming behaviors.

Wilderness therapy also provides a structured and supportive environment where youth and teens can work on developing healthy coping strategies and building positive relationships with peers and staff.

Wilderness therapy programs for self-harm treatment typically include a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and team-building exercises. These activities are designed to challenge youth and teens both physically and emotionally and to help them build skills such as problem-solving, communication, and leadership.

Additionally, many wilderness therapy programs incorporate therapy sessions and group discussions to help youth and teens process their experiences and develop new insights.

The length of wilderness therapy for self-harm treatment can vary depending on the program and the needs of the individual student.

However, most programs last between eight and 12 weeks and involve a combination of in-field and aftercare support.

Aftercare support may include ongoing therapy, group meetings, and other resources to help youth and teens continue building on the skills they learned during the program.

When selecting a wilderness therapy program for self-harm treatment, it's important to look for a program that is licensed and accredited by the appropriate governing bodies.

Additionally, you should look for a program that has experienced and qualified staff who are trained in wilderness first aid and have expertise in working with teens who self-harm.

You may also want to consider the program's approach to therapy and aftercare support, as well as their safety protocols, outcome data and track record.