Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 83 Issue 1 (March 2010), Pages 1-109

Appalling and appealing: A qualitative study of the character of men's self‐harm (pages 91-109)

Objectives. To engage with the experiential phenomena of men's self‐harm, to get a sense of its ‘feel’, its character, and to relate these things in a useful and authentic way.

Design. Qualitative in‐depth interview study with design input from service users' groups.

Method. Hermeneutic phenomenology. Two interviews with each of four participants in their homes, with the intention of developing understanding through dialogic interview and reflection.

Results. Some of the character of men's self‐harm was recognizable from the psychodynamic and functional literature: soothing practices, dissociation, and an ambivalent stuckness around separation versus incorporation. There were other, unexpected structures present: existential vulnerability and openness, sacrifice, lack of boundary, and insatiability.

Conclusions. Professionals who work with men who self‐harm may like to be aware of these relational dynamics.

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