Core Issues in Eating Disorders

Core Issues in Eating Disorders

What are some core issues in eating disorders? Are there themes that almost always show up in eating disorder recovery? Why is art therapy so effective to explore these core issues in eating disorders? My name is Abby Hansen and I am an EDIT™ Counselor Intern at Positive Pathways. I am currently finishing up my Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Transpersonal Art Therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, CO. I have been working with folks struggling with eating disorders at various levels of care for the past six years. Over time I have picked up on a few themes or core issues in eating disorders treatment that almost always show up. I’d like to share why I believe art therapy can be such a beautiful part of eating disorder recovery, where healing of these core issues in eating disorders can unfold.  1. Identity – “I am sick, and if I am not sick, who am I?” The eating disorder often began as a very useful coping mechanism utilized to help during a difficult situation in life. Over time, the eating disorder becomes less effective as a way to cope, and winds up holding one back from who they really are. Art is innately unconscious – every mark we make on a page is the visual language of our soul. When we take the time to slow down and pay attention to our imagery we realize we have never left ourselves. I believe the more time we spend with our artwork the more time we spend with ourselves. 2. Perfectionism – “If I can’t do this perfectly, I am a failure.”...
Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

When considering eating disorders and art therapy, how can clients enhance their recovery through the separation from “ED” (what they might call their eating disorder)? Common with clients suffering from disordered eating, is the assumption that the internal dilemma is truly about calories, weight and food (Johnston, 1996). In introducing art to the therapeutic process, we can begin to access that which hides behind the disordered eating pattern (Brooke, 2008). Though there are several effective eating disorder and art therapy interventions that can help access our deeper selves, the “Create an Image of the Eating Disorder” intervention is extremely powerful. Using clay or paper and oil pastels (or any other drawing material), the therapist invites the client to create and image of the eating disorder. They will then invite the client to give this disorder a name, a face, does he/she have a body? How big is this character? This eating disorder and art therapy intervention assists clients in recognizing that they have both an authentic self and a voice of their disordered eating pattern. By externalizing and characterizing the eating disorder, the client can begin to separate their true self from this false self; the disordered eating that developed as a coping strategy. Further, the client can begin to dialogue with the eating disorder, give it a name and express their true feelings about the influence that this character has had on their lives. Additionally, the individual can also thank the character of the eating disorder for the coping methods that were provided during the clients time of need. As the separation process begins, a lot of thoughts, feelings...
Art Therapy and Eating Disorders

Art Therapy and Eating Disorders

Art Therapy in Eating Disorder Recovery What is Art Therapy?  Just as “talk therapy” involves communication and support through words – Art Therapy involves communication and support through art. It’s not necessary to be an “artist” to experience Art Therapy, or to be an Art Therapist. All that is necessary is a willingness to explore the use of a variety of art materials as a means of expression. As facilitated by an Art Therapist, the client explores the use of art materials, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to externalize feelings, reconcile emotional conflict, foster self-awareness, manage behaviors and addictions, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.  (Source: The American Art Therapy Association) What are the benefits of working with an Art Therapist? Clients can experience “art as therapy,” originated by pioneer art therapist Edith Kramer who believed art to be therapeutic in itself, and Art Therapy, a given directive or intervention used help meet the specific needs of a client. Art Therapists have a Master’s Degree or higher in a Mental Health field, with specialized training to conduct Art Therapy. My name is Murphy McCracken, and for the past 9 months I have been completing my internship at Positive Pathways, as a part of my Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology – Art Therapy Concentration. My internship intention was to offer the art making process to clients as a means of connection to their experience at times when words would not suffice. What kinds of Art Therapy are helpful for eating disorder recovery? Just as “talk therapy” is unique for each individual, and the therapist guides the conversation to best support...