Eating disorders are often spoken of as one of the more difficult psychiatric diagnoses to treat. For many clinicians, the prospect of working with a client with eating disorder behaviors seems daunting. While it is true that eating disorders are complex and multifaceted in their presentation, they are also a way in which the body communicates what the mind cannot. It is said that when you can “crack the code” of what the eating disorder is communicating, you can help your client find the path back to their authentic self.
Using this hypothesis as a lens for discovery, we will explore the body-mind connection inherent in all eating disorders and present an approach to this work that is client-centered, empowering, and hopeful. Combining treatments that integrate both right and left brain learning has been proven to be incredibly effective in the treatment of eating disorders. For this reason, this presentation will establish the need for both “top-down” cognitive and “bottom-up” somatic approaches for helping to guide our clients into a well-rounded and comprehensive experience of recovery. Our focus during the presentation will center around the use of metaphor and imagery, and the introduction of somatic awareness and body-based interventions as a means of helping our clients advance in their recovery.
We will explore the use of metaphor and imagery as a way of bypassing the cognitive process, targeting the client’s unconscious awareness. We will also explore the use of somatic language as a metaphor to help the client in learning to reclaim safety in the body, regulate their mood, and strengthen their sense of self. We will explore how the use of these techniques help to work with and unravel the known resistance and pathological ambivalence that is a common and oftentimes difficult to treat element of eating disorder treatment. We will look at examples and case studies using these approaches to demonstrate how to utilize techniques in your own practices.
The exploration of somatic approaches to treating eating disorders provides an overview of the correlation between the nervous system, trauma, and eating disorders. This presentation will provide examples of how trauma can manifest in the creation of eating disorder behavior and interventions that can help clients regulate using the body. We will discuss best-practice approaches to treating trauma and eating disorders using a “bottom-up” approach and engage in experiential exercises that demonstrate examples of somatic interventions appropriate for this population.
- Attendees will learn how a “bottom-up” somatic approach to treating eating disorders takes the focus off of pathology and re-introduces the client to their body in a way that allows them to see the body as a resource, instead of an enemy.
- By attending this session, participants will learn and experience the use of metaphor and imagery-based interventions to help their clients explore their relationship with food, embodiment (body image), and internalized belief systems that exist within the schema of the eating disorder self.
- Attendees will leave this presentation with knowledge of evidenced based research regarding the nervous system, polyvagal theory, and its applications for the treatment of eating disorder behaviors.
- Attendees will leave this presentation with knowledge of somatic responses to trauma and how this relates to eating disorder behaviors.
- Through experiential exercises, attendees will learn several somatic interventions and practical strategies for applying interventions demonstrated to be effective for treating eating disorders and trauma.
- Attendees will learn how to use somatic awareness and skills to tend to and regulate their own nervous system and create a calming sensory environment which in turn will help them to create a “container of safety” for their clients during the therapeutic process.
About the Speaker:
Becca Clegg is an Atlanta, Georgia based psychotherapist, author and speaker specializing in the treatment of women in recovery from eating disorders & body image issues. She is also a certified eating disorder specialist and supervisor (CEDS-S) through iaedp, The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, and dedicates part of her practice to training new clinicians in the field of eating disorder treatment as they pursue specialist certification.
Becca is the Clinical Director of Authentic Living; a private practice specializing in the treatment of women in recovery from eating disorders & body image issues. In addition to her clinical practice, Becca is also a writer and speaker, and presents nationally, educating families, clients and clinicians on the treatment of trauma, eating disorders and body image issues. She is the author of the book, Ending the Diet Mindset: Reclaim a Balanced Relationship with Food & Body Image, and the host of The Inner Alchemy Podcast, which educates its listeners on the vast array of healing modalities available for self-development and recovery. She holds workshops and retreats, and offers online programs for both clients and professionals, all of which can be found on her website, www.rebeccaclegg.com
All artistic images reproduced by kind permission of Patricia Fitzgerald of Healing Creations.