Date of Conferral
Counselor Education and Supervision
Adolescent self-harm is a growing epidemic in the United States with thousands of adolescent children being treated in hospitals every year. Despite awareness that self-harm impacts the family unit, little attention has been given to the full impact that self-harm has on parents. Due to this lack of knowledge, counselor educators and supervisors are not equipped to train counselors to work with parents of self-harming adolescent children leaving counselors feeling unprepared to work with parents. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of parents who have self-harming adolescent children. Family systems theory was used to explore the concept that self-harm impacts the entire family system. The key research question for this study was: What are the lived experiences of parents of self-harming adolescent children? Six participants were interviewed using a semi structured design. The interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using Pietkiweicz and Smith's 3 stage analysis process. Six main themes emerged from the data: (a) reaction to behavior, (b) change in self, (c) change in parenting style, (d) impact on relationships, (e) change in perception of mental health issues, and (f) support systems. The results of the study confirmed that parents have strong emotional responses to the self-harm and consequently adjusted their parenting styles. The outcomes of this study have the potential to impact positive social change by informing changes in counseling curriculum, training programs, and the level of support and services counselors provide when working with parents of a self-harming adolescent child.