When you start to see a therapist it can be daunting for many reasons. You’re stepping outside your comfort zone, meeting someone new and divulging your struggles in the hopes that you can find peace. Some may find the right match right away, while others may have to try several therapists before they find someone that they’re comfortable with. But no matter how different our journey into therapy is, some things remain the same.
Vanessa McLennan kindly provided this article detailing what you can expect when you see a therapist for your eating disorder. It’s a pleasure to have someone with such knowledge about binge eating and emotional eating on the blog, two topics we rarely touch on. I’ve spent some time going through Vanessa’s website, specifically the blog section, and have learned so much about the other side of the eating disorder spectrum.
About the author.
Vanessa McLennan is a Binge Eating, emotional eating, food addiction, eating problems, and weight loss specialist. She’s a hypno-psychotherapist, and qualified in counselling, EFT, EMDR, CBT, and naturopathy. She has an interest in health and was brought to this area by her own health issues. She loves helping people heal their trauma and childhood so people become relaxed and happy with their eating and food.
You can find out more about Vanessa McLennan on her website. And be sure to check out the blog section where there are multiple articles to help you better understand binge eating, emotional eating, and food addiction.
Five things to expect when you see a therapist for your eating disorder.
As a therapist, I can appreciate that coming into my office to talk about your eating disorder can be a huge challenge. There are so many things going through your mind. You no doubt have fears, worries, and questions.
Dealing with an eating disorder early can speed up your recovery so you’re not suffering longer than you have to. Getting help is such a positive step, even though it can be daunting.
Understanding what will happen and the therapist’s role is a big help in making the journey to recovery a successful and enjoyable one for you. This is forming a positive relationship with yourself and food. The relationship you develop with your therapist is a major part of the therapy, so taking the time to find the right person for you is essential.
But once you’ve found one, what can you expect when you see a therapist?
Your first meeting.
The first meeting is really to establish what your eating pattern is and what is going on for you. I would not only be asking questions about your eating but also how you feel about your eating and yourself. It is also your opportunity to ask me lots of questions and to get a feel for, can you work with me. It is not going to work if you don’t like or get a bad feeling about your therapist.
It’s the therapist’s role to provide a safe environment where you feel you can trust them and say whatever is on your mind and be received with empathy and compassion.
From this session, you should have a plan of how the therapy will go and what you will work on. You may even put in a review date. It is difficult to know how many therapy sessions you will need as each person is different.
Have a look at this post on starting therapy by Pantea Rahimian.
Finding the root cause.
Some therapies will focus on the presenting behaviours. Others will want to find the root cause. There are many types of talking therapies. When I see clients for Binge Eating and Bulimia issues, I know it’s not actually about the food. Usually, through discussion, a person’s past will come up. It becomes evident that past events would benefit from being discussed and the emotions around them being worked through. It does not mean you have to relive the past, just work through issues so they are no longer triggering for you. These past issues are many times a cause of your eating disorder and working through them helps to resolve your present-day eating issues.
Understanding your eating behaviours.
Therapy also involves helping you to find healthier and new ways of eating. It is far from telling you what you should be eating, or how often. When I see people with binge eating or food addiction we work through what triggers them into a binge. We work out why that is a trigger and then work out other ways to respond to that trigger so that it no longer results in a binge.
How the therapist supports you.
The therapist is there to support you. With person-centred therapy, the therapist’s role is to give you unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence. In other words, they will listen and understand you. They will point out the positives and provide warmth and kindness to you. They will also be honest and reflect back to you what they see and hear. This all helps you to see how your eating disorder is not your fault. It helps you to recognise the behaviours that you are trapped in and cannot see. It helps you to find the positives within yourself so you can resolve your eating problems.
It is worth knowing that each therapy session is individual to you.
As you go through therapy and your eating issues start to resolve, you may need support rather than working on past trauma. When I help people with BED we work on becoming body positive. We learn to start being kind and loving to ourselves. I also help someone with how they can support themselves. No one wants to be in therapy for the rest of their lives, so it is important to support them in becoming autonomous. This gives the person much-wanted freedom and control over their own food choices.
Many people who have gone through therapy, find a new sense of freedom. They enjoy food and a new relationship with it. They find that they are kinder to themselves and no longer harsh and judgemental. They become relaxed around food. They no longer have a sense of lack of control. This is when life becomes filled with more light and fun.
Have you been to see a therapist for your disordered eating?
Would you like to share your experience below? Did you find it helpful or the opposite? It personally took me a long time to find a therapist that fit my personality and recovery style. But once I found them, my eyes were well and truly opened up!