Disordered Eating: Working With and Through the Body/Mind of Patient and Therapist
Saturday 30 November 2019 - London
With Yeva Feldman, Morit Heitzler and Susie Orbach
This conference will be grounded in the most up to date thinking on eating problems, as well as offering some substantial and inspiring assistance to those working with this challenging client group. Traditionally, the term “eating disorder” is a medical expression encompassing the various psychiatric diagnoses referred to in the DSM 5. Our speakers will problematise the diagnostic criteria for a wide range of eating issues (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Pica, Rumination Disorder and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) to help us navigate this complex interaction between emotional issues and food. Whether these symptoms can best be understood as an illness, as an expression of relational pain or a response to the demands of our times will be considered. We will examine what makes one eating disorder pathway more compelling than another for the patient/client, and why.READ MORE...
Overall, it might be argued, to have an eating disorder is to have an illness which causes a great deal of damage to the body, mind and soul. Most clients do not understand the seriousness of their food issues, and the profound effects these have on their physiology and mental health. Denial of illness and ambivalence about treatment is one of the major symptoms that therapists may be working with as clients normalise their problem. Often they may have co-existing problematic states of mind, such as depression or bi-polar disorder which provide a layer of complexity to the therapeutic work.
Our speakers come from diverse clinical backgrounds including psychoanalytic psychotherapy, attachment-based psychotherapy, body psychotherapy, dance movement psychotherapy and nutrition. We hope to bring a broad range of ideas for our participants to consider in their clinical work. The day will begin with talks followed by workshops in the afternoon in which you can choose from an embodied, movement based approach or an attachment-based approach with contributions from a nutrition expert.
Registration and coffee
Dr Susie Orbach
Addressing the Body Today
Eating Disorders are to today what hysteria was to the 19th century. They exemplify the personal and social struggles to find a place, to enunciate space, to contest the strictures of femininity and masculinity. Folded into troubled eating and troubled bodies are a complex mix of fears, emotional states and body confusions. The struggle to allow appetite and to enliven the body reshapes not just the personal but the social too.
The Hungry Ghost and the Hated “Other”- The Traumatised Body and Disturbed/ Un-Healthy Eating Patterns
With an alarming growth in obesity rates and a rapid decline in the average age of anorexics and bulimics our society is facing a crisis which the medical profession is, as yet, failing to contain, heal or resolve. Un-healthy, emotional eating patterns grow and develop on the fertile soil of early childhood traumas and/or disturbed attachment patterns. As with any other addiction, the attempt to “treat” the symptoms of what are known as “Eating Disorders” has proved to have limited results. A new approach is called for, an approach that will embrace the symptoms as a communication of an unconscious, often split off, traumatised Psyche which is holding, re-enacting and expressing the trauma through a particular relationship with the body. The traumatised person uses food and nourishment as a means to control, soothe, punish or gratify the body. The body becomes the main battlefield where life or death war is declared against all that is experienced as an “other”- the traumatised wounded body. The therapist who is able to listen with and through her own body, thus resonating with the client’s body and bypassing the strong ego-based cognitive defences, can tune into right brain communication, in which the dis-owned, split-off fragments of the trauma are relayed to her in a non-verbal, symptom based language. The client’s relationship with food, therefore, can be understood and held as a somatic expression of the trauma as well as of the body-mind systems drive towards curative reintegration.
Finding My Body, Finding Myself: An Embodied Relational Approach to Eating Disorders
Individuals with eating disorders struggle with a pervasive sense of disconnection on multiple levels from their authentic self, from their body and from significant others. An embodied relational group approach, integrating Gestalt and Dance Movement Psychotherapy, provides an opportunity for clients to reconnect with their bodies, authentic expression and others. Affirming freedom of choice and accepting ambivalence towards change promotes therapeutic alliance and engagement. Psychotherapies that incorporate working relationally with body process are uniquely suited to treating this client group. They tune in therapeutically to a client’s preferred mode of communication, the body, while enabling them to retain a sense of autonomy and control.
Please choose one group and register for that on arrival
Participants will be invited to work in small groups led by Morit and Yeva in order to develop insights into the wider dynamics of eating disorders and the kinds of therapeutic interventions you might be able to offer.
Group 1: Led by Yeva Feldman
Finding My Body, Finding Myself: Exploring Key Themes for Recovery
In this workshop, participants will be invited to experience an embodied relational group approach. This will focus on key themes emerging from practice-based research with individuals with Anorexia Nervosa. Themes will include expression of aggression, creative play, true selves, freedom and release, positive affect and support, and body image. Experiencing spontaneous, free and authentic movement and creative play can bypass the rigid bodily control and resistance that is characteristic of anorexia. These experiences generate positive feelings and pleasure, strengthening somatic resources and body image. This session will give participants an experience of working in a movement relationship and its impact on body image.
Group 2: Led by Morit Heitzler
Listening with the Body: Engaging with Un-Healthy Eating Patterns through Somatic Countertransference
Un-healthy or self-harming eating patterns often represent a part in the psyche that has not been able to find expression in any other way. Approaching this part and the distress it carries using verbal and cognitive communication alone, is rarely sufficient. In therapy, we need to be present and available to engage with the Body: both with the client’s body which carries scars of traumatic imprints, as well as with our own bodies, that pick up the subliminal, pre-verbal and unconscious aspects of the client’s story via our mirror neurons and other body-mind processes. How do we make sense of the body’s signals and access this subtle, significant form of communication? How do we process the inherent experiences of our body-mind in ways that prove useful and transformative?
This workshop will aim to address these questions and various other related issues through an integration of theoretical discussion and experiential exercises.