Art Therapy and Eating Disorders

Art Therapy and Eating Disorders

Art Therapy in Eating Disorder Recovery

I’d like to introduce you to Murphy McCracken, who is an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician. Murphy was a Counselor Intern under my supervision at Positive Pathways from August, 2013 through May, 2014. She is a knowledgeable and compassionate therapist, who is currently employed at a mental health treatment center. Although she does not meet with anyone who is not a patient at the center, I can incorporate art making into therapy sessions. You never know what the creative process will reveal!
– Dr. Dorie

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 the clients needs – Art Therapy involves the use of specific art materials and a creative process to guide the conversation being expressed artistically. As an Art Therapist, I have a variety of “art interventions” which I use based on a client’s specific issues, or where they seem to be “stuck” in therapy. Art interventions can often tap into areas which words cannot reach. Art Therapy can help connect to the parts of the self that have been repressed or hidden underneath coping mechanisms, such as eating disorder behaviors. One specific intervention I can share is an application of Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ – the Express Your Self principle.  This Art Therapy technique was used as a part of an Art Therapy Group curriculum I developed, where the focus one week was on the idea of “Impermanence.” Each group member was asked to create large individual murals using chalk pastels and/or markers, to the sounds of different music. The group was invited to pay attention to where they felt bodily sensation or awareness through their senses as they listened to the music. They were then directed to create marks based on their physical and emotional experience in the present moment. The mark-making on the mural can visually give the client a lineage of the past and present, offering proof that nothing lasts forever. The music stops, and the quiet of the room returns. How one might have been feeling within one moment could have shifted. We are forever growing and changing and this movement is an organic shift within us all. Paying attention to the body and adjoining intuitive movement offered the group members an opportunity to connect with their Intuitive Therapist (IT) within themselves. The IT, or “True Self” as Dr. Dorie notes, connects to the Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul of us all. Connecting to the senses and giving ourselves permission to show up as we are within a given moment frees us from the “false self” of the Eating Disorder (ED). In this way, Art Therapy facilitates the shift from ED to IT, which is the key to eating disorder recovery.


Looking for guidance with ART THERAPY? MURPHY MCCRACKEN, MA (the author of this blog article) is an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician, and is currently employed by an eating disorder treatment center. Although she does not work with clients unless they are patients at the center, Dr. Dorie is available to meet with clients who wish to incorporate art making into their therapy sessions.

Interested in a FREE consultation with Dr. Dorie? Dr. Dorie is passionate about her method of Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ to help people overcome eating disorders and addictions.  She provides customized counseling for eating disorders and alcohol / drug addiction at her Positive Pathways treatment center in Evergreen, Colorado – and EDIT™ eating disorder training and certification for coaches and clinicians worldwide. CALL 303-494-1975EMAIL DR. DORIE – GET CERTIFIED