Beginning therapy to address your eating disorder, or any mental health concern, in general, can induce a significant amount of fear and anxiety. Not only are you trusting a complete stranger with some of your deepest and most vulnerable experiences, but you are also putting your faith in someone to help you battle what may seem insurmountable. Moreover, even if you have hope that your therapist will be helpful, you may expect the recovery process to be challenging and feel unsure about what therapy will exactly entail. Before you start meeting with a therapist to address your eating disorder, having an idea about some of the following roles of therapy may reduce some of your anxiety and anticipation:
Building a reparative relationship – The therapist-client relationship is a powerful and essential part of therapy. Slowly learning to trust and be vulnerable with another person is a significant way to relieve much of the burden and secrecy of having an eating disorder. Often, having an eating disorder may feel like you are in a toxic relationship that you cannot escape; therefore, a professional relationship with a therapist can be a healthy alternative which can model other positive and healthy relationships for which you can strive.
Exploring thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – With the guidance of a therapist, you can delve into some of your core beliefs, automatic thoughts, and emotions (some of which may be out of your awareness) that may be contributing to your eating disorder behaviors. As you identify and acknowledge these processes and experiences, your therapist can assist you in recognizing faulty thinking and reframing negative beliefs that you have about yourself.
Getting ready to target behaviors – Your therapist can assess your level of readiness to work on eliminating eating disorder behaviors, and meet you where you are in this process. If you are feeling resistant to reducing these behaviors, your therapist can help you explore your hesitation and find motivation to challenge your disorder. Together, you can create short-term and long-term goals and create a plan to facilitate your recovery.
Developing adaptive coping skills – As you attempt to reduce your eating disorder behaviors, you will benefit from learning healthier coping tools for emotional regulation. With the help of your therapist, you can experiment with various coping mechanisms and self-care strategies to adaptively deal with emotional dysregulation.
Having accountability and consistency – Working with a therapist can help you stay accountable in terms of not acting on your eating disorder behaviors, practicing self-care, and taking other steps towards your psychological and physical well-being. Regularly attending therapy assures that you have a set time and space to reflect on the status of your mental and physical health, and make necessary adjustments to support your recovery.
Having a safe space for emotional processing – Eating disorders are usually the manifestation of deeper, underlying concerns that may be out of our awareness. Being in therapy can provide you with a safe space to slowly unpack painful thoughts, feelings, memories, and experiences that may be deeply impacting you and playing a role in your disorder. Having a place to release, sit with, and resolve emotions is also an adaptive way to self-soothe rather than use eating disorder behaviors to cope.
Getting a different perspective/reality check – An eating disorder can overwhelm your mind with distorted thoughts that may feel like reality. A therapist can be very helpful in challenging these faulty thoughts, providing reality checks, and offering different perspectives regarding the eating disorder and other client concerns.
By having an idea of what eating disorder therapy may entail, you may experience some relief in your fears about the recovery process; instead of feeling like you are aimlessly walking into this process, you can begin with some sense of guidance and direction.
Bio: Bahar Moheban, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral candidate and registered psychological assistant in Torrance under the supervision of Dr. Nazanin Moali. She treats adults and adolescents presenting with eating disorders, body image concerns, and comorbid disorders, and does so in individual and group settings. Bahar has mentored others in eating disorder recovery and led support groups on reducing body dissatisfaction. Call Bahar today to book your initial consultation.