Monday, October 20, 2014

Finding the Artist within: Art Therapy and Eating Disorders

Shawna_Erback_2Art Therapy has been a powerful and effective coping skill that the eating disorder community has embraced for decades. Art therapy helps and challenges a person to create and to reflect on the process of the art making experience and the art work they create. This process is powerful especially for someone who is suffering from an eating disorder because it helps gain new insight and awareness about themselves and their eating disorder.

Having worked with the eating disorder population for six years one common thing I have seen is how difficult it can be for so many to express or identify their feelings and thoughts. For many words are not a viable and comfortable outlet for them to use. This is why art therapy can be so powerful. The transformations I have seen in someone who with words alone could not express the pains within, utilize different avenues of art for expression is inspiring. I wanted to share with the world how art therapy can be used to help those who suffer from an eating disorder in their recovery process.

Art Therapy for Bulimia or Binging:
 For so many people out their suffering from bulimia or binging the behaviors they exhibit is that of a binge then purge cycle or a binge cycle. For someone who suffers with bulimia the purge is their avenue and way to get rid of or releases intense emotions. The purge serves as the outlet for release and a physical act of expression. This physical act on themselves is the attempt to get rid of unwanted feelings & emotions that feel to much to cope with. The binge cycle is an act of no control, a person feels lost and numb during the binge often times this serves as a way to not only disconnect with the body and mind but emotions as well.  The binge and purge cycle are often attempts to cope with unresolved emotional issues such as depression, rage, powerlessness, frustration and sadness. Art therapy is a unique way of tapping into those feelings both conscious and unconscious.

Incorporating art therapy into someone suffering from bulimia or binge eatings treatment could help with the binge and purge symptoms and a greater understanding of what the binge and purge behavior represents or how its used to help one cope. Using art therapy could become a replacement behavior or coping mechanism for the binge and purge behavior.

Art Therapy for Anorexia
: For someone struggling with anorexia there is a restricting of not only food but emotions. Those who suffer from anorexia severely restrict their food content and this serves many emotional purposes. Starvation depletes the body of essential nutrients that the body needs to feel energy and function. Someone who suffers from anorexia feels a numbing of emotions when in severe starvation. They no longer feel any troubling emotions inside, starvation allows them to numb the pain they feel internally. Art therapy provides an outlet for anorexics to explore buried feelings as well as reconnect with their feelings and perception of themselves and their body.

Art therapy can be used like a key to open doors and hidden things. I empower you if you are struggling with expressing or identifying negative emotions to channel them into a creative form of expression. This allows the development of a new language to find a healthy way to cope with emotions.

Art-Therapy-Helping-Families-Cope1Some examples of utilizing art for coping:

– Creative Journaling

– Scrap booking

– Vision Boarding

– Collage Making

– Painting.

– Writing

– Pottery/ Clay Making

My hope is to increase the awareness of utilizing art therapy and give so many out there hope that there are healthy powerful ways to confront and get through the pain without turning to the eating disorder behaviors. There is hope for recovery, it’s time to find the artist within!

A note from the Editor of #RealDeal: we have many resources for art therapy and many of our programs have been featured in art therapy (and other expressive arts therapy) circles for the last 7 years.  Visit those resources (scroll down the VERY long list!) here!  ~Robyn Hussa Farrell, Editor, #RealDeal

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