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Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation Paperback – September 14, 1998
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“Casts an eye on the emotional pains behind a dark adolescent practice.”
“Levenkron understands well the need for sharing basic information about this taboo subject as well as strategies for treatments. As a therapist who has worked with this problem for more than twenty years, he has much to offer.... Well written and engaging, [Cutting] educates the reader about a subject on which too little has been written.”
- New England Journal of Medicine
“Clear and comprehensive information on the causes and effective treatments of this mysterious disorder.”
- Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Steven Levenkron is a psychotherapist and the author of seven previous books, including Cutting and The Anatomy of Anorexia. He lives and practices in New York City.
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However, reading this book nearly 20 years after its publication and having experience in the mental health community it is apparent that a lot of progress has been made in understanding the subject of cutting and self-harm since the book was written. The case examples tend to be on the extreme end of the spectrum; I didn't feel the book covered a wide enough spectrum of "levels of mental health" in clients who self injure. In particular I noted an obvious lack of examples of adults who self-injure. The book focuses on teens and older children coming from rather intense backgrounds, which felt overly specific and seemed to ignore (or present a total ignorance of) those who self-injure as a whole as we are aware of this issue today.
While the author attempts to break down the taboo barriers in the discussion of self-harm and cutting, (and admittedly, there are still many in the mental health community who struggle to adequately support or help those who self-injure) the subject almost comes off as sensational due to its focus on the extreme.
There is still useful and well-grounded information in this book. As I said, the author led the charge at the time in understanding self-injury and presenting it as a treatable issue. Just keep in mind that in comparison to what we know now in the present day, the information comes off as a bit narrowly focused.
Personally I think this book would be ideal for the loved one or family member of a cutter trying to develop some understanding of what's going on.
That said I honestly just found most of this book to miss the mark for me. The psychology described in the book would probably describe 70% of cutters but absolutely missed the mark with me. I was really hoping to find some answers or insights to this book but frankly I found it tiresome and tedious to read through. I can't fault the book for being bad or misinformation, but I can't say that I did not enjoy this book and did not have a positive experience with it.
I thank the author for making his plunge into this field of mental health because of the rising (and still rising) occurrence of self-mutilation in our youth and others as time goes on. Caring love and understanding is needed in this area of understanding.
Parents: you have to do more than just read...you need to act. We have someone who self harms in our family and are trying to get professional help as well as change how we parent, communicate, and interact with our children. It is a painful experience, but our children are worth everything!