Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Education Specialist


This investigation explores knowledge, training, and practice issues for school psychologists in working with youth who self-injure. Self-injury (SI) is the socially unaccepted, deliberate, self-inflicted harm of an individual's body to reduce psychological distress, without the intention to die as a consequence. As SI is viewed as the "the next teen disorder" (Welsh, 2004), school psychologists are increasingly encountering students who self-injure. Thus, it is necessary to determine school psychologists' ability to respond to youth who self-injure. The purpose of the present study was to conduct a survey of practicing school psychologists to provide information about their knowledge and skills, along with school response plans for SI. The survey obtained a response rate of 6.4% from a random sample of members of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Survey respondents were demographically similar to the NASP demographic with the exception of a lower mean age. On a knowledge measure based on Jeffrey and Warm's (2002) myths and facts about SI, school psychologists with the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential evidenced no significantly greater knowledge of SI than school psychologists that do not hold the NCSP credential. In addition, there were no mean differences between the school psychologists with high knowledge of SI from those with low knowledge of SI on their rating of their perceived level of knowledge. However, this sample's knowledge of SI was comparable to that found by Jeffrey and Warm (2002) for psychology professionals. Descriptive analysis of the survey items assessing additional factual knowledge about SI further supports concerns about the sample's knowledge base. While the sample has a high knowledge about SI, their knowledge base was not entirely accurate in several areas, most notably contemporary issues such as the media's influence on SI, contagion, and prevalence. In reporting referral rates, 88.9% of participants have had a student referred for SI, with cutting being the most common form. The majority of participants indicated that they were both in need of (93.7%) and interested in training (98.4%) on SI. The last section of the survey examined school districts' responses to SI. Only 7.9% of participants replied that their districts use a plan specifically for addressing SI as recommended by experts in the field (Lieberman & Poland, 2007; Walsh, 2002). Of respondents that use school response plans, 49.2% have not had staff training on SI. A majority of participants (90.5%) have not received any training on how to reduce contagion within their schools. Results indicate a need for more comprehensive crisis management plans for addressing SI and staff training to address basic knowledge of SI along with contemporary influences such as media and contagion. The results are extremely limited in generalizability due to a low response rate (6.4%). A discussion of practical implications for professionals and suggestions for further research follows.


Education | Psychology