Psychosocial interventions for self-harm in adults

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Apr 22;4(4):CD013668. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013668.pub2.

Abstract

Background: Self-harm (SH; intentional self-poisoning or self-injury regardless of degree of suicidal intent or other types of motivation) is a growing problem in most counties, often repeated, and associated with suicide. There has been a substantial increase in both the number of trials and therapeutic approaches of psychosocial interventions for SH in adults. This review therefore updates a previous Cochrane Review (last published in 2016) on the role of psychosocial interventions in the treatment of SH in adults.

Objectives: To assess the effects of psychosocial interventions for self-harm (SH) compared to comparison types of care (e.g. treatment-as-usual, routine psychiatric care, enhanced usual care, active comparator) for adults (aged 18 years or older) who engage in SH.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Specialised Register, the Cochrane Library (Central Register of Controlled Trials [CENTRAL] and Cochrane Database of Systematic reviews [CDSR]), together with MEDLINE, Ovid Embase, and PsycINFO (to 4 July 2020).

Selection criteria: We included all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing interventions of specific psychosocial treatments versus treatment-as-usual (TAU), routine psychiatric care, enhanced usual care (EUC), active comparator, or a combination of these, in the treatment of adults with a recent (within six months of trial entry) episode of SH resulting in presentation to hospital or clinical services. The primary outcome was the occurrence of a repeated episode of SH over a maximum follow-up period of two years. Secondary outcomes included treatment adherence, depression, hopelessness, general functioning, social functioning, suicidal ideation, and suicide.

Data collection and analysis: We independently selected trials, extracted data, and appraised trial quality. For binary outcomes, we calculated odds ratio (ORs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs). For continuous outcomes, we calculated mean differences (MDs) or standardised mean differences (SMDs) and 95% CIs. The overall quality of evidence for the primary outcome (i.e. repetition of SH at post-intervention) was appraised for each intervention using the GRADE approach.

Main results: We included data from 76 trials with a total of 21,414 participants. Participants in these trials were predominately female (61.9%) with a mean age of 31.8 years (standard deviation [SD] 11.7 years). On the basis of data from four trials, individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based psychotherapy may reduce repetition of SH as compared to TAU or another comparator by the end of the intervention (OR 0.35, 95% CI 0.12 to 1.02; N = 238; k = 4; GRADE: low certainty evidence), although there was imprecision in the effect estimate. At longer follow-up time points (e.g., 6- and 12-months) there was some evidence that individual CBT-based psychotherapy may reduce SH repetition. Whilst there may be a slightly lower rate of SH repetition for dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) (66.0%) as compared to TAU or alternative psychotherapy (68.2%), the evidence remains uncertain as to whether DBT reduces absolute repetition of SH by the post-intervention assessment. On the basis of data from a single trial, mentalisation-based therapy (MBT) reduces repetition of SH and frequency of SH by the post-intervention assessment (OR 0.35, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.73; N = 134; k = 1; GRADE: high-certainty evidence). A group-based emotion-regulation psychotherapy may also reduce repetition of SH by the post-intervention assessment based on evidence from two trials by the same author group (OR 0.34, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.88; N = 83; k = 2; moderate-certainty evidence). There is probably little to no effect for different variants of DBT on absolute repetition of SH, including DBT group-based skills training, DBT individual skills training, or an experimental form of DBT in which participants were given significantly longer cognitive exposure to stressful events. The evidence remains uncertain as to whether provision of information and support, based on the Suicide Trends in At-Risk Territories (START) and the SUicide-PREvention Multisite Intervention Study on Suicidal behaviors (SUPRE-MISS) models, have any effect on repetition of SH by the post-intervention assessment. There was no evidence of a difference for psychodynamic psychotherapy, case management, general practitioner (GP) management, remote contact interventions, and other multimodal interventions, or a variety of brief emergency department-based interventions.

Authors' conclusions: Overall, there were significant methodological limitations across the trials included in this review. Given the moderate or very low quality of the available evidence, there is only uncertain evidence regarding a number of psychosocial interventions for adults who engage in SH. Psychosocial therapy based on CBT approaches may result in fewer individuals repeating SH at longer follow-up time points, although no such effect was found at the post-intervention assessment and the quality of evidence, according to the GRADE criteria, was low. Given findings in single trials, or trials by the same author group, both MBT and group-based emotion regulation therapy should be further developed and evaluated in adults. DBT may also lead to a reduction in frequency of SH. Other interventions were mostly evaluated in single trials of moderate to very low quality such that the evidence relating to the use of these interventions is inconclusive at present.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00081367 NCT01342809 NCT02505373 NCT01081314 NCT01308151 NCT00736918 NCT00664872 NCT00183651 NCT00154154 NCT01193205 NCT00700089 NCT01176929 NCT01355848 NCT02414763 NCT01123174 NCT01512602 NCT03720730 NCT02004145 NCT01334541 NCT02914847 NCT00714311 NCT02936700 NCT03114917 NCT03011190 NCT03488602 NCT01356186 NCT01473771 NCT02718248 NCT01901887 NCT01689909 NCT00218725 NCT00601939 NCT00603421 NCT00641498 NCT00980824 NCT01359761 NCT01823120 NCT01952405 NCT02227160 NCT02299440 NCT02522143 NCT02742922 NCT03300596 NCT03376113 NCT03489382 NCT03533075 NCT03600532 NCT03943862 NCT03373916 NCT02038075 NCT02685943 NCT02377011 NCT02326883 NCT02985047 NCT00533117 NCT00834834 NCT02106949 NCT02664701 NCT02387736 NCT02060448 NCT02354183 NCT03081078 NCT03185026 NCT03427190 NCT03463980 NCT03541824 NCT03732300 NCT03853382 NCT03894462 NCT04072666 NCT04168645 NCT04191122 NCT04244786 NCT04284085 NCT04343703 NCT04366466 NCT04420546.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Depression / therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mentalization
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychosocial Intervention / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recurrence
  • Secondary Prevention / methods
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy*
  • Suicide / prevention & control

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00081367
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01342809
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02505373
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01081314
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01308151
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00736918
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00664872
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00183651
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00154154
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01193205
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00700089
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01176929
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01355848
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02414763
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01123174
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01512602
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03720730
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02004145
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01334541
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02914847
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00714311
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02936700
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03114917
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03011190
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03488602
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01356186
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01473771
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02718248
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01901887
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01689909
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00218725
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00601939
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00603421
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00641498
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00980824
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01359761
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01823120
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01952405
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02227160
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02299440
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02522143
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02742922
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03300596
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03376113
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03489382
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03533075
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03600532
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03943862
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03373916
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02038075
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02685943
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02377011
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02326883
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02985047
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00533117
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00834834
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02106949
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02664701
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02387736
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02060448
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02354183
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03081078
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03185026
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03427190
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03463980
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03541824
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03732300
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03853382
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03894462
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04072666
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04168645
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04191122
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04244786
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04284085
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04343703
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04366466
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04420546