Q: I have a long time friend that has confided in me that he sometimes cuts & burns himself. My friend and I met at a Foster Home we stayed at for a few years. So I was always aware that my friend’s childhood was dysfunctional & harmful but it wasn’t until a year ago that my friend started hurting himself. He tells me past memories become overwhelming for him and harming himself helps. I know my friend isn’t crazy but I also know this isn’t normal and above all very dangerous. He says it’s never a suicide attempt but I’m still concerned.

I was able to find a lot of information online but only about women self-injurers. Do you know of any places for guys? My friend won’t go to counseling as it was used more as torture when we were in the Homes. All that is left is helping ourselves.

A: Self-cutting is definitely a sign of the need for therapy. I do understand that counseling has a bad taste for your friend (and I guess for you) but you must understand that, yes, there are bad counselors… and there are even bad therapists (there is a difference…)…. but there are also many good ones, and your friend could Die from what he is doing. He could die accidentally from too deep a cut, from an infection, etc… and he could die on purpose.

You must not take it on yourself to decide how serious or minor his behavior is. He needs Good therapy. (Maybe you could do some investigating for your friend to help him to find a therapist who is well trained in dealing with childhood memories and cutting behaviors… It would be difficult, but maybe with your reassurances about the likelihood that the therapist was well investigated in advance he would be more willing to try it.)

It is true that females who cut themselves are more numerous and most of the information focuses on them. But any therapist who is good at working with females who have this problem would also be good at working with males.

I’m sorry to hear about your own problems in the past, including problems with the bad counselor. Please note that a whole lot of people call themselves “counselors” and many of them do not have much training in therapy (although some do). In most states, calling yourself a “therapist” implies certain training and licensing. So don’t try another counselor for something this serious. Your friend needs a Good Therapist.

Thanks for writing. I wish you and your friend the very best.

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