Treating Self-Destructive Behaviours in Trauma Survivors: Strategies and Intervention Techniques for Clinicians *

Presented by Lisa Ferentz, LCSW, DAPA

On Demand | Available Now


12 Hours  |  Pre-approval period for CEUs has expired


This On Demand course and will be available immediately after purchase. Participants can watch, pause, and re-watch the sessions at their convenience.

Many adolescent and adult clients with histories of trauma, abuse, neglect and other pain narratives have an increased vulnerability towards using self-mutilation, addictions, and eating disordered behaviors to cope and self-soothe, numb and dissociate from unresolved pain. In this training, clinicians will learn about the dynamics of early childhood trauma and the impact that dysfunctional attachment has on clients’ abilities to effectively manage their emotional states.  We will process traumatic experiences and the impact that personal meaning has on clients’ emotional and psychological wellbeing.  We will explore the connection between different attachment styles and affect regulation and dysregulation. We will then connect those early childhood experiences along with developmental stressors and challenges to a cycle of self-destructive behavior. As we de-pathologize these behaviors and view them through a strengths-based lens, participants will learn about a specific “cycle of self-harm” which emphasizes the impact of triggering events, negative cognitions and affect, dissociation, and anxiety on self-harming behaviors. It will also provide helping professionals with a concrete and creative model for intervention.

A variety of right-brain and left-brain based treatment strategies will be offered to help reduce and eventually extinguish these behaviors. An emphasis will be placed on interventions that are designed to increase insight, strengthen internal safety, promote grounding and containment, reduce dissociation and help clients self-soothe in healthier ways. We will explore the idea of “working with” self-destructive behaviors by de-coding their meta-communication while learning how to avoid the power struggles and increased self-harm that often accompanies ineffective “safety contracts.”  A more effective, alternative contract, called CARESS, will be presented.  We will also process the more common clinical pitfalls that can occur when working with these challenging and sometimes triggering issues and emphasize the need for therapists to engage in their own self-care.

Online Course Format

  • 6 Session Online Training – 2 hours per session
  • Each session will consist of 2 hours of teaching content
  • Non-Interactive – registrants will have access to lectures, PowerPoint presentation, demonstrations, video clips, and experiential exercises.

Session 1

  • Defining traumatic experiences, their meaning and connection to loss.
  • Exploring attachment styles and their impact on emotional regulation and dysregulation.
  • The challenge of attaching to abusive caretakers.
  • The optimum window of arousal

Session 2

  • Developmental and adolescent stressors and the vulnerability to engage in self-destructive behaviours.
  • Understanding why clients self-harm
  • Exploring self-soothing and the meta-communication of eating disordered behaviours, addictions, and self-mutilation.

Session 3

  • Incorporating a strengths-based, de-pathologized approach to working with self-destructive behaviours
  • Processing the cycle of self-destructive acts and the ways in which triggering, dissociation, and anxiety influence the process.
  • Connecting the cycle to a case study 

Session 4

  • Creatively treating self-destructive behaviors through “intervention sites” designed to reduce and eventually extinguish the behaviors
  • Addressing triggers, cognitive distortions, and negative affect using journaling, somatic resourcing, cognitive re-framing, art, visualization and guided imagery techniques to enhance safety, containment and grounding for traumatized clients

Session 5

  • Addressing tension and anxiety, and dissociation using breath work, pacing, flashback halting protocols
  • Working with CARESS as an alternative to standard safety contracts
  • Addressing positive and negative outcomes and emotional vulnerability 

Session 6

  • Processing clinical pitfalls and counter-transferential responses that emerge in the work.
  • Exploring the need for self-care to maintain creativity and efficacy and avoid burn-out.
  • Addressing vicarious traumatization
  1. Explain the relationship between, trauma, attachment, developmental stressors, affect dysregulation, and self-destructive acts.
  2. Describe a chronic cycle of self-harm and the ways in which dissociation and anxiety influence the process.
  3. Describe and utilize CARESS, an alternative to standard safety contracts, and identify at least two reasons why standard safety contracts can be ineffective.
  4. Implement at least 6 creative strategies that help re-ground and re-establish a sense of safety in triggered trauma survivors.
  5. Identify at least three manifestations of counter-transference when working with self-destructive behaviours.

Clinical Professionals: All mental health professionals including, but not limited to Clinical Counsellors, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Social Workers, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Hospice and Palliative Care Workers, Youth Workers, Mental Health Workers, Addiction Specialists, Probation Officers, Police Officers, Speech Language Pathologists, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants and all professionals looking to enhance their therapeutic skills.

Lisa Ferentz, LCSW, DAPA, is a recognized expert in the strengths based, de-pathologized treatment of trauma and self-harm and has been in private practice since 1984. She presents workshops and keynote addresses nationally and internationally, and is a clinical consultant to practitioners and mental health agencies in the United States, Canada, England and Ireland. She has been an adjunct faculty member at several universities, and in 2007 founded “The Ferentz Institute,” which provides continuing education and state of the art training in trauma treatment to mental health professionals.

In 2009 she was voted the “Social Worker of Year” by the Maryland Society for Clinical Social Work. Lisa is the author of “Treating Self-Destructive Behaviors in Traumatized Clients: A Clinician’s Guide” (Routledge), now in its second edition, “Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors: A Workbook of Hope and Healing” (Routledge), and “Finding Your Ruby Slippers: Transformative Life Lessons From the Therapists’ Couch.” (PESI)

Lisa hosted a weekly radio talk show, writes blogs and articles for websites on trauma, self-harm, and self-care, teaches on many webinars, and is a weekly contributor to You can follow Lisa’s work at www.theferentzinstitute.comFacebook, and LinkedIn.

RegistrationEarly bird FeeRegular Fee
Individual Enrollment$399.00N/A
Full-Time Student$309.00N/A

All fees are in Canadian dollars ($CAD).

For group and/or student rates please view our Terms & Conditions and contact for more information and registration. 

The pre-approval period for accreditation of this course has expired. Participants seeking accreditation must contact their associations directly. Please check with your association prior to registration if you require continuing education credits/units (CEU’s). We do not guarantee approval and fees may apply. As this course is no longer pre-approved for CEU’s it is being offered at a discounted rate.