Cutting to Live: A Phenomenology of Self-Harm

Tiffany B. Brown, Thomas Kimball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


This exploratory study utilizes a phenomenological methodology as described by Moustakas (Phenomenological research methods, Sage Publications, 1994). Data were gathered via qualitative face-to-face interviews from a midsize southwestern community. Eleven participants, ten females and one male, were included in this study. Data suggested three categories that described the participants' experiences of self-harm: Self-harm is Misunderstood, Self-Harm has a Role, and Advice to Professionals. Among these categories, 11 themes emerged, including Self-Harm is Not Suicide, Self-Harm is an Addiction, Individuals Who Self-Harm are Traumatized, Help That's Not Helpful, Self-Harm is a Release, Physical Pain versus Emotional Pain, Self-Harm IS Control, and Need to be Punished. Advice to professionals who work with individuals who self-harm is offered by the participants. The study concludes with a discussion of the phenomenon of self-harm, as well as clinical and training implications for professionals. Future directions for research are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-208
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Marital and Family Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013


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