Treatments for Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors in Youth: Progress and Challenges

Evid Based Pract Child Adolesc Ment Health. 2020;5(3):354-364. doi: 10.1080/23794925.2020.1806759. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs) remain a common clinical problem in youth. This article reviews the state of knowledge regarding psychosocial treatments for SITBs in youth. Broadly speaking, psychosocial treatments that incorporate parents/family and that emphasize skills development (including emotion regulation and interpersonal skills) appear to produce the best outcomes. We also describe several challenges to the implementation of evidence-based psychotherapy, as well as potential solutions to these challenges, and provide an illustrative case example. Finally, because even evidence-based psychosocial treatments can take weeks to produce effects, increased attention has been given to biological approaches such as esketamine administration and transcranial direct current stimulation that have potential to yield rapid improvement for acute suicidal ideation, though evidence for the safety and efficacy of these approaches is in the early stages.