Some people mistakenly think that eating disorders are only serious if a person gets really, really thin. In fact, this is not true! You should know that people with eating disorders come in a range of sizes and shapes and that you can’t tell whether or not someone is sick just by looking at them. Often, by the time they look sick on the outside, a tremendous amount of damage has already been done on the inside. For example, someone with bulimia might purge often to try and get rid of food (and unwanted feelings!) and in the process, could throw off his/her electrolyte balance, leading to the possibility of heart damage. If treatment isn’t sought quickly – and often before this person gets “skinny” – then these physical problems can get worse, and even become fatal. This is why it’s so important to get treatment as soon as possible!
Research suggests that the best approach to treating eating disorders is to use a multidisciplinary, approach. This means that the person with an eating disorder sees a whole team of professionals who all work together, covering every aspect of recovery. A typical outpatient team would include a medical doctor (preferably one who knows about eating disorders); a therapist to provide individual AND family therapy; a nutritionist to monitor food and weight; and maybe a psychiatrist to manage medications, if necessary. Working with a recreation or occupational therapist can also be extremely helpful.
Sometimes, the eating disorder becomes so severe, or has been going on for such a long time, that an inpatient stay is required. Again, the most effective programs offer this same “team approach” so that clients can address the many intermingled issues that contribute to the eating disorder. Remember, though, that inpatient programs are often just a “first step” in a relatively long recovery. After discharge from hospital, having a competent outpatient team in place is CRUCIAL to help clients maintain the progress they’ve made, and to continue in their healing journey.
I provide both individual and family therapy on an outpatient basis. With both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, and fifteen years experience treating those diagnosed with an eating disorder, I offer services to men and women of all ages, and also treat those who don’t yet have a full blown eating disorder, but fear they are on their way to this devastating illness.
It’s not enough to eat normally or maintain an acceptable weight. To really recover we have to address the underlying issues.
The focus of my practice involves treating the entire person – addressing intrapersonal issues like low self-esteem and perfectionism; family problems; struggles with school or work, and interpersonal difficulties such as how to handle conflict in relationships, as well as the physical symptoms associated with an eating disorder. I believe it is not enough to simply eat normally or maintain a healthy weight – to really recover from an eating disorder (or prevent one from occurring) the underlying problems need to be resolved. This may mean working on depression, anxiety, addictions, unresolved trauma, or any other co-morbid mental illness that exists alongside the eating disorder. To address these complex issues I use a number of therapeutic approaches based on each client’s individual needs. These include Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy, Family Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Solution Focused Brief Therapy. I’ve also been incorporating the principles of neuroplasticity as the research mounts to support these interventions. To learn more about my qualifications, click here.
My specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy enables me to really help family members understand the complicated dynamics underlying this difficult illness. Many people with an eating disorder – and their family members – fear that family therapy will lead to blaming or fault finding. This is not the case. Instead, I help families find ways to work together towards recovery – empowering family members to be part of the solution instead of feeling they are part of the problem! Over the years, I have worked with many adolescents and young adults together with their families, as they move towards recovery. Even adult clients have often found it helpful to include their partner, siblings, children or parents in counseling. If you want more information for family members or friends, click here.