SAFE Alternatives Self Injury Residential Treatment

SAFE is the only residential program in the United States that focuses on self injury. It is housed in a psychiatric hospital near St. Louis, Missouri and I attended the program a few years ago. I wasn't impressed and didn't find it helpful at all. I've also run into a out a dozen people who've been through the program as well - all of them continue to self injure. It felt like I basically wasted a month of my life there.

I attended in December and it was cold and snowy outside. The patient rooms literally didn't have heat...nothing blew out of the vents, they'd been closed off. The group therapy room, where we spent about 7 hours a day didn't even have a heat vent. We'd attend the long hours of group therapy dressed in layers, coats, and covered in blankets. At night, I stayed semi-warm only because my family brought me about 5 blankets. On a good note, the food the hospital serves is great. Salad bar at every meal, a few different choices of main course, and usually you could get seconds.

The therapy aspect of the program was sadly lacking. Patients were almost expected to be each other's therapists. It was easy for me and some others to fall into the role of helpers and never get our issues addressed. Most groups were lead by mental health techs...people who didn't even need a college education to get the job. There were also rules that were ridiculous. No cursing, no saying words such as blood, cut, burn, etc. All you could say was "self injury" for fear it might trigger someone. There was no concern about preparing people to deal with triggers outside of the program. I ended up leaving AMA because I was so tired of playing therapist for others and not getting help myself.

On a good note treatment-wise, Raafea Malik, the psychiatrist for the program is wonderful. She is very intelligent and caring on top of that. The one thing that actually helped me during my time at SAFE was the times I'd meet with her and talk.

So, I'd recommend not attending SAFE for treatment based on my experiences.
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  • I was thinking about going into an inpatient facility about two years ago when my self harm and depression were at its worst. I never knew there weren't any programs solely focused around self injury. I guess it's probably because most self injury cases involves other mental illnesses so they probably want to address all of them together. I'm sorry that it didn't work out as well as it could especially because the place sounds so nice in theory. 
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