August 4, 2014 by Castlewood Treatment Center in Body Image, Eating Disorder Treatment More and more expressive therapy models for treating eating disorders and other mental health conditions are becoming mainstream for their transformative effect in recovery. Expressive therapies encompass all expressive and creative arts therapies such as music, art, dance or yoga, drama and psychodrama, recreational and play therapy. By promoting treatment of the body and mind, there is an opportunity to establish a pivotal commitment to healing, insight into self-awareness and change.
While therapy provides a valuable place to safely evaluate feelings and identify distorted thinking, psychologists are finding that the component missing is the physiological aspect of a person’s illness. For individuals suffering from eating disorders, learning to treat and understand the body with care and respect is an important part of living a successful recovery. It’s impossible to find balance and well-being when afflicted with a loathing of one’s body or ailments like headaches, fatigue, digestive troubles and insomnia.
In an exercise to illustrate this point, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk asked the audience of a lecture: “Everybody hunch their backs forward and droop their heads, like this (demonstrating a sullen drooped head). Now try saying: ‘Oh, I’m feeling great! I’m very happy today!’ See, it’s impossible to feel happy in that position.”
Oftentimes, patients carry the residual effects of mental health conditions physically, so while the therapy and support of friends and family can have a great impact, adding the component of expressive therapy can be truly healing. By learning to tolerate and appreciate bodily sensations, individuals are more capable of processing their experiences and working through them in positive ways. Practices such as yoga, dance, music and art are an especially good way to not only heal one’s connection and relationship with their body, but will provide an outlet for expression when stress or life’s challenges return.