Many eating disorder treatment centers embrace a variety of treatment modalities to meet the needs of their patients. One of these methods is art therapy. You might wonder how art therapy can be effective in treating and managing disordered eating.
Art therapy can provide a number of benefits for those struggling with eating disorders.
Talking and Expressing
Conventional therapy models focus on motivational interviewing and counseling where the patient participates in discussions with doctors and psychologists about how they feel and why they struggle with eating disorders.
This type of therapy is an excellent way to build awareness of motivations and feelings, but it is only one side of the coin. Talking about emotions and expressing emotions are two different methods of communication. Those recovering from eating disorders not only need to be aware of their emotions, but they also need to learn how to express them in a healthy way.
The process of creation allows for patients to find paths to self-expression that exist beyond their self-imposed identity as anorexics or bulimics. Patients practice setting and meeting small goals, and they also deal with losing control. Everything in an art project does not always go according to plan. Control is major trigger for eating disorders. The arts provide a safe setting to relinquish control without devastating consequences.
Visualizing the Self
The arts promote expression by approaching therapeutic thought processes from a different angle. For example, in a group discussion, patients might struggle to answer the question, "What things do you most value?" In an art therapy session, patients might be able to answer that same question by writing a poem or painting a picture with "love" or "importance" as the only governing theme.
Artwork gives people a way to express things that they don't have the ability to express on their own. This is especially important for those with eating disorders because the causes and motivations for the disease can often mean confronting painful experiences from the past. Art makes this confrontation more meaningful to many patients.
Without the journey of creation, patients do not have the opportunity to learn as much about themselves as they otherwise would have done. The creation process requires deep introspection, which can help to resolve feelings of body distortion as the patient learns to see value in his or herself while expressing things that have meaning.
Seeing Things as They Really Are
One of the goals of treatment for eating disorders is to help patients gain a realistic view of their bodies. Artwork can also do this, and not just visual arts. Performance, like piano or singing, drama, and even dance can also build up body confidence and a more healthy view of what the body can do.
Many people with eating disorders feel their body ought to be punished or that their body is a prison. Neither distortion is correct. By participating in the creation of beautiful and even edifying productions for others, the view of what a person's body can do and who he or she can influence broadens. Patients experience deeper respect for their bodies and can become more committed to full recovery as they realize that a body is to be nourished and celebrated instead of hidden away and punished.
Full-time eating disorder treatment takes time, and it can be difficult for many patients to adapt to the mode of 24-hour surveillance. Art provides a reprieve from the mental stress of psychotherapy and medical appointments throughout the day. Many patients are unable to exercise or participate in activities they have have done when they were healthy. Creation helps the time to pass by in a meaningful manner.
For more information on treatment options, contact a location like Center for Change Anorexia treatment centers.