The self-destructive behaviors affluent adolescents use to deal with stress have been largely ignored by the psychological community, according to a scholar who spoke Feb. 8 at a conference sponsored by Fordham’s Graduate School of Education (GSE).
“The research hasn’t caught up to the clinical cases,” said Merle A. Keitel, Ph.D., professor of counseling and counseling psychology at the GSE. “It is up to us—psychologists, sociologists and school counselors—to learn how to best serve this privileged group of adolescents.”
Keitel was one of five speakers at the conference, titled “Self-Injury, Eating Disorders and Suicidality: Understanding Adolescent Self-Destructiveness,” held on the Lincoln Center campus. It was the first conference staged by the GSE’s Psychological Services Institute (PSI), a non-profit organization staffed by psychologists, counselors and trainees offering a wide range of psychological services to adolescents, adults, couples and families.
The event covered eating disorders, suicidality and self-injury, and how professionals can build therapeutic school communities to assess, prevent and treat such harmful behaviors.
“In recent years, there has been an explosion in the increase of adolescent self-harm that has as its focus the direct attack on the body,” said Amelio A. D’Onofrio, clinical professor and director of the PSI. “Self-injury has a powerful meaning to those who engage in the behavior. For their purposes, it works. It restores their emotional homeostasis.”
The purpose of this conference, D’Onofrio said, was to help front-line responders such as counselors, social workers, psychologists, school administrators and health care professionals better understand the dynamics underlying adolescent self-harm.