Focus Theme Research – Alanus University Study on Self-Harming Behavior

Focus Theme Research – Alanus University Study on Self-Harming Behavior

An initiative on the Focus Theme Research and Outcomes Studies of the Council

Challenging and self-harming behaviors often push teams and institutions to the limit of their abilities and can lead to the need to discontinue care relationships because clients cannot be supported appropriately in the setting. Even in anthroposophical contexts, it is not uncommon for long-term pedagogical or social-therapeutic relationships to break down, because the professional and human resources are insufficient. There are some indications that this issue is gaining weight and becoming more prevalent.

Internationally, there are now a large number of studies that shed light on this precarious situation, and academic interest is also growing in Germany. In the context of our organizations, no systematic investigation has yet been carried out into this.

The Institute for Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy at Alanus University is now planning wide-ranging longitudinal study, which aims to evaluate this complex of issues. The resulting insights are to be made available for further development of our methods in dealing with severely challenging and self-harming behaviors. We hope to help better meet the potentially growing number of affected people in our contexts.

The study design will be based on Positive Behavior Support. This method, established in many countries and already well evaluated, has the advantage of being very “paradigm-neutral,” so that the anthroposophical image of the human being and specifically anthroposophical methods can be well integrated. At the same time, there already exists a already broad research base, which can serve as a frame of reference.

The first pilot projects are currently under way, which will provide us with preliminary information, in particular on the feasibility and compliance of the institutions, and will help to define the final study design. For the investigation phase, which will begin after that, we want to invite as many interested institutions from the international anthroposophical context as possible to participate. Since in many places there has not been an established practice of addressing these kinds of situations empirically, it may still be challenging to establish this research community.

The annual international research symposium of the Training Circle Conference in Kassel will be a forum for further exchange (next date: April 24-27, 2019). Anyone who is already interested in this project, either personally or as representative of their institution, is welcome to contact the author at any time.

Professor Dr. Bernd Kalwitz
Department of Educational Science
Alanus University of Arts and Society