Specializing in Eating Disorders, Self-Esteem, Body Image, Depression, and Trauma
Eating disorders are, quite simply, symptoms of emotional distress. Eating disorders are used as tools to cope with historic and daily stressors, much like those who use other maladaptive coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, work, or sex. The eating disorder was created in a time of great need. A time where the person was needing escape, where they were needing support, when they were needing to make sense of the world, and when they were needing care.
It may be counter-intuitive to think of an eating disorder as something necessary, and yet, the eating disorder provides many opportunities to make sense of then world, to cope, to be numb, and to provide control and stability when it is lacking in the environment. The prevalence of eating disorders crosses all cultures and genders. Although it is heavily under-reported, I posit that the rate of eating disorders between men and women is closer to 60%-40% (women-men), than what is popularly believed to be 90%-10% (women-men). Under-reporting in a situation such as an eating/feeding disorder is not surprising due to the stigma associated with eating disorders as well as the core foundational shame intertwined within.
The goal of eating disorder therapy is to find the catalyst or catalysts of the behavior, understand the function of the behavior, learn alternative ways in which to cope, and implement those new coping skills into daily life. This can be a lengthy process as the person has likely had their eating disorder for multiple years. Eating disorders can be difficult to let go of, as they have historically functioned in helpful ways in a person's life.
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Body perfection and image is constantly being reinforced in the world. The constant media bombardment of health, weight, dieting and image is unrelenting. The way in which folks speak about themselves and others is based in such shame and it is important to address this as early as possible. I believe in changing the conversation people have about themselves. I believe in the benefit and discomfort that comes when we attempt to speak to who we are as unique, creative, wise, and infinitely special.
The difficult truth is that our current culture is perfection-driven. It does such a great disservice to newer generations to put such incredible importance on physical beauty and the pursuit of the perfect body. We have seen this pursuit end tragically time and time again. And, until change happens or our culture shifts, how do we protect ourselves from the negativity? from the shame? from the allure of chasing perfection?
The pursuit of perfection and the expectations folks take on from the messages in the environment can have devastating effects to one's self-esteem. It is important to address these effects as early as possible and attempt to understand how the environment effects how people see themselves.
I have a tremendous amount of experience facilitating body image groups and have accumulated many different techniques and agendas that address both issues with esteem and body image.
Depression goes beyond the occasional sadness that people feel from time to time. Depression goes beyond grieving losses in life. Depression is a state where folks feel sadness and grief, but also experience hopelessness and helplessness in the midst of the sadness and/or grief.
My aim with depression is to focus on both the "top down" and the "bottom up" processes occurring with my clients. I feel, all too often, folks fall into the willpower trap which can be counter-productive when discussing mental illness. The goal is to find the balance between proper resources, creating and maintaining safety, working on what the driving forces are, and developing ways to cope with the stressors and find worth in life.
How does one find worth in self and in the world? How does one unlock internal motivating factors that lead to lasting shifts? It is a very explorative process and I am always grateful to be able to join with someone on that journey.
Traumatic experiences are a natural part of life. In very simple terms, trauma is any overwhelming situation that causes the body to react. Trauma can occur in an instant, like a car accident. A single event trauma is one that comes out of nowhere and leaves the recipient both stunned and disconnected. Trauma can also be systemic, it can occur across many years. Developmental trauma is a state of fear and stress perpetrated over a long period of time, causing distress and a subsequent deterioration in mental and physical health.
Therapy seeks to unlock and empower an individual towards understanding the defenses they have built (behaviors); the old necessity of those defenses; the idea that those defenses/behaviors were integral in protecting the individual; and now that they have reached a safe place, they can unburden themselves and re-purpose the energy of those maladaptive defenses/behaviors into beneficial and life-fulfilling roles.
Adolescent and TeenTherapy
As we grow and assimilate ourselves in the world, we look to those close to us for an example of how to behave, maintain, and treat others in our lives. As we develop, we have a need for secure attachment figures in our lives. When life events occur that cause distress (i.e. abuse, divorce, bullying, neglect, etc...) we look to our secure attachment figures for guidance, care, and compassion. When there is a disconnect between caregiver and child, the child is then forced to make sense of the event/s themselves.
The developing child is egocentric out of necessity. A significant amount of human gestation happens after birth, creating an extremely vulnerable and incredibly dependent little entity. Children are so dependent at birth, it makes sense that they would develop this idea that they are the center of the universe because, quite frankly, they have to be in order to survive.
So, when things go awry and a child lacks an attachment figure that can help them make sense of the distress, the child is forced to make sense of it themselves with whatever information they have available at that time. Children create a story that makes sense given the information at the time...meaning whatever distress or relational turmoil is occurring, is a direct result of the child experiencing the distress.
The earlier we address these attachment disruptions, the better. I believe in family systems work and the idea that the person experiencing the distress is a symptom of distress in the family system. I aim to identify the dynamics unfolding in the family and seek to heal the entire system.