Body Psychotherapy in Eating Disorder Recovery
I’d like to introduce you to Juli Teng, who is an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician. Julie was a Counselor Intern under my supervision at Positive Pathways from June, 2015 through May, 2016. She is a knowledgeable and compassionate therapist, who is currently employed at a health center in Canada. Although she does not meet with anyone who is not a patient at the center, I can incorporate metaphors of eating disorders into my sessions with clients. Evergreen, Colorado is the perfect place to explore nature and animal metaphors!
– Dr. Dorie
What is Somatic Counseling?
Translated literally, “soma” means body. Somatic counseling is a form of psychotherapy that views the body as an integral part of the counseling process. Body psychotherapy is considered to be one branch under the larger umbrella of somatic counseling. Somatic counseling is derived from a rich lineage of psychologists, clinicians, bodywork practitioners, psychologists, dancers, and philosophers. The theories and perspectives of psychoanalysis, existential, humanistic, and gestalt psychology, expressive arts, neuroscience, and Eastern philosophy and spirituality all contribute to the practice of somatic counseling today. The founders of somatic counseling observed that the body often holds key wisdom that can be invaluable in understanding the psyche and in facilitating personal growth and transformation.
On both subtle and overt levels, the body has witnessed and experienced all that has happened in each person’s life and holds its own memories and insights about these experiences. Accessing and honoring this information from the body in psychotherapy provides a wealth of knowledge that may not be part of more traditional “talk therapy” sessions. The information held within the body may also not readily be available to conscious awareness, though it may be influencing a person through illness, overwhelming emotions, or a sense of “stuckness.” Allowing the body to have a voice in somatic counseling through using specific techniques allows this information to enter cognitive awareness and provides an opportunity to process and work with it in a deep and profound way. Somatic counseling encourages a true integration of body, mind, and spirit in therapy. (Source: United States Association for Body Psychotherapy)
What are the benefits of working with a Body Psychotherapist?
Working with a body psychotherapist can be very beneficial for any issue typically addressed in more traditional forms of counseling: stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, addictions, trauma, eating disorders, and much more. Body psychotherapists integrate dialogue into sessions and address therapy issues on the cognitive and verbal levels, just as in traditional therapy. In addition, body psychotherapists offer the added benefit of not only supporting the voice of the mind and emotions, but also welcoming the body to “speak” and offer its perspective in sessions. Body psychotherapists use many different techniques, depending on what would be most beneficial for the client. These include awareness of breath, tuning into body sensations, relaxation, meditation, visualization techniques, conscious movement, and expanding spontaneous postures and gestures that may arise in therapy.
A major key to the benefits of body psychotherapy is the recognition that awareness of the physical body can create meaningful change in one’s life. Through body psychotherapy, hidden patterns can be seen more clearly, as well as points at which someone may be repeating the same patterns over and over again in his or her life. These patterns show up on the physical level and can be utilized in the therapy session to better understand their purpose. The body also provides insight into how these stuck patterns can be shifted and moved, pointing the way to change through physical sensations, movements, and insights that arise through attending to one’s physical presence. Body psychotherapy aids in getting to know the body on a deeper level than is often supported in daily life and inviting one to experience a sense of wholeness in ways unique to each individual.
How can Body Psychotherapy be useful for eating disorder recovery?
Body psychotherapy has a great deal to offer to assist people in eating disorder recovery. Often, when people experience eating disorders, there may be disconnection between mind, body, and emotions. The body may be viewed as a source of pain and something that needs to be controlled. There may be a sense of mistrust of the body, its urges, its hunger and fullness signals. One may also feel cut off from a sense of nourishment. Eating disorders arise in complex ways and in response to a myriad of circumstances. Disordered eating behaviors can provide a coping mechanism for these circumstances in the best way one may know how at the time. Body psychotherapy can facilitate deeply honoring the reasons why disordered eating may be arising and reconnecting with the purpose served by these patterns.
Body psychotherapy offers an avenue to shift from opposing and fighting the body to aligning with the body. Through the experience of tuning in to what messages the body has to offer and what needs it is trying to express through disordered eating behaviors, it is possible to experience recovery from eating disorders. Additionally, body psychotherapy offers the opportunity to feel more at home in the body, to view the body as a valuable tool, a resource, and an ally, and to repair the disconnection between mind, body, and emotions. Body psychotherapy approaches eating disorder recovery through facilitating embodiment, helping you work toward a mutually beneficial and compassionate relationship with your body and the experience of true nourishment.
Looking for guidance with SOMATIC COUNSELING? JULIE TENG, MA (the author of this blog article) is an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician, and is currently employed at a health center in Canada. 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 mindfulness of the body into their recovery.
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 303-494-1975 – EMAIL DR. DORIE – GET CERTIFIED