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Exploring Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI): Relevance, Theory, Associated Risk of Suicide, Assessment & Treatment

by Shallimar Jones, PhD 2 CE Credits

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a growing concern worldwide. Although the actual term may vary (e.g., self harm, self-injurious behavior, parasuicidal behavior), NSSI is generally defined as intentional self-inflicted injury to the body to cause pain, bleeding or bruising but without the presence of suicidal intention.  Behavioral examples include, but are not limited to, cutting, burning (with fire or eraser), skin carving, scratching, biting, hitting self or objects, embedding objects under the skin or head banging. Over the past decade the rate of NSSI has skyrocketed. Given the high correlation with actual suicide, being able to identify and treat NSSI is critical for mental health providers and allied health care professionals. This online CE course examines the historical context of this behavior, reviews the current diagnostic classification of NSSI, and discusses the theoretical formulations of self-injury. Psychosocial risk factors associated with self-injury including sexual orientation and environmental contributors like bullying and Internet usage are explored. Guidelines and considerations for assessment are presented, as well as treatment options and resources for clinicians to enhance effective and efficient care.


Continuing education for this online course is offered through the following approvals:


  • HealthForum is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. HealthForum maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • HealthForum (ACE Provider #1156) is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org, through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) Program. HealthForum maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: (6/20/2017 to 6/20/2020). Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits. Social workers participating in this course will receive 2 Clinical continuing education clock hours.
  • HealthForumOnline, LLC, SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0355
  • HealthForum has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6216.  Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. HealthForum is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.


Course Sections/Outline:

  • Introduction/Relevance
  • Underlying Theoretical Mechanisms of NSSI
  • Sociodemographics: The Role of Gender, Ethnicity & Sexual Orientation in NSSI
  • The Psychological Correlates of NSSI
  • Social Influence
  • Assessing for NSSI
  • Clinical Implications for Prevention and Treatment
  • Emerging Innovative Approaches and Psychopharmacological Treatements
  • Case Example
  • Web-based Resources

Learning Objectives:

After completing this course, health professionals will be able to:
  • Define non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) using DSM-5 diagnostic criteria, including its prevalence, relevance, and relationship with suicide.
  • Identify 3 central underlying mechanisms and at least 7 psychosocial correlates of/risk factors for NSSI from a theory- and evidence-based perspective.
  • Name 4 primary elements in assessing NSSI and utilize these guiding principles toward diagnostic clarification and treatment planning, including the identification of several evidence-based measures frequently used in this context.
  • Discuss 5 approaches to treating NSSI, as well as emerging strategies and psychopharmacologic approaches.