The History of London’s First Self Harm Group

SAFE began as a pioneering behavioural treatment program for self-harm originating in Chicago, Illinois and brought to Canada in 1990.

The SAFE module, as it is currently practised, can be traced back to Mary Graham and Dr Dorothy Haswell when it was brought to Canada in 1990, modelled after a program in Chicago where Mary Graham received successful treatment. Graham and Dr Haswell worked together to create the current manual that is in use today.

Several years after the module was implemented and in practice, B.J. Thom became the primary facilitator. Thom led the group with great success until her death in 2007.

Mary Graham returned to London in 2012 and started the program again. At the same time Martha McCallum, a psychology student at Western University, reached out to offer her gratitude to the program and offer some assistance. Graham soon installed her as an apprentice facilitator for the weekly group before she retired in June 2013. McCallum has run the group ever since.

The initial years of the SAFE program established it as the only weekly outpatient self-harm program that was also unique in psychological treatment insofar as it did not aim to diagnose a strict condition. It focused on self-harm as a behaviour; a behaviour the patient deliberately chooses to alleviate the heightened emotional response, a behaviour that can be changed. And it’s this core aetiology that continues to guide SAFE into its third decade.