Thursday, November 24, 2016

Comfort Kits for Students Who Self Harm

Thursday, November 24, 2016




Earlier in the month, I had the honor of presenting at the Georgia School Counselor's Conference; however, this is not the subject of my post tonight.  I wanted to share a really creative idea that I learned about at one of the sessions.  This particular session focused on working with students who engage in non-suicidal self injury.  

What is Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI)?

Okay, let's define Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI). The DSM-V defines NSSI as the self-directed, premeditated, and deliberate harm or destruction of body tissue without suicidal intent and that is not socially sanctioned" (unlike tattoos and piercings). (Kerr, Muehlenkamp, & Turner, 2010). 

In addition, the person has for at least five days engaged in the self injurious behavior, with the anticipation that the injury will result in some bodily harm.


Without going into an in depth discussion about NSSI (I have explored this subject in earlier posts which I have provided below for you to check out), I wanted to provide a technique that school counselors can use with their self injurious students. If you are like me, you are always looking for strategies to use with these students.

As promised, here are my other blog post about NSSI.

Self Injury Resources for the Clueless School Counselor 






Secret Pain


March Social Awareness Events for School Counselors 

Includes a section on self injury.




So, let's find out more about how a comfort kit works.

What is a Comfort Kit?


The goal of a comfort kit is to provide a distraction for students who engage in self injurious behaviors.

How do you create a kit?

Simply, go to your nearest dollar store purchase a container like the one below.

Next, fill the kit with a few tactile tools and sensory items.  It is more effective if you limit the kit to three to four items.  

Here are some examples of items to include in the kit:
  • Glue 
Glue gives the sensation of pulling on the skin which mimics the sensation students desire when cutting, burning, or picking the skin.
  • Highlighters (suggested colors are yellow and green)
Highlighters can be used for the student to make visual marks on the skin which is often another desired result of NSSI.
  • Tape
 Like glue, tape also provides a sensation of pulling on the skin which mimics the sensation students desire when cutting, burning, or picking the skin.
  • Stress ball
  • Band aids
Like glue and tape, band aids also give the sensation of pulling on the skin which mimics the sensation students desire when cutting, burning, or picking the skin.
  • Bag with sand and rocks
Great sensory tool to use with students!
  • Notebook with Circle of Control 
Have students create a notebook and insert a Circle of Control handout for the student to complete.














  • A manipulative like clay or play doh

In addition to these sensory items, include other items that are important to the student like a stuffed animal, photos, cards, writings, etc. Make sure the student chooses these items and that they are school appropriate.

How to use the kit?

Start out strong by allowing the distressed student to come into your office and use his or her kit for about 20-30 minutes.  As time goes on during the year, slowly reduce the student's time with the kit and progressively move the location of the kit so the student can access it without your presence. The goal is to place the kit in his or her possession where the student can look at the items and become distracted from the act of NSSI.

What is the suggested time frame?

The suggested time frame for using the kit is six months to all school year.

A Look at the Kit


Here is an example of a kit that was created by one of the presenters.  This school counselor used her kit with a group of middle school girls who started using non-suicidal injurious behaviors during the 2015-16 school year.  In addition, if you have ideas that you can share feel free to message me!  I love to hear all your ideas!!

Items include markers, stress ball, glue, tape, and band aids.

Each student's notebook contained a worksheet called Circle of Control