Clinically Speaking is a blog that will allow anyone to learn about Social Work, case presentations in psychotherapy, and the relationship of pop culture in psychology. Come one...come all!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Eating Disorders: Interview with an Art Therapist

As promised, here at ClinicallySpeaking we not only like to write and talk about the published articles and different treatments, we like to speak to those professionals who are in the field and "in the trenches". 

ClinicallySpeaking had a chance to catch up with Jennifer Lipstein, LCAT-ATR, BC (Aka Licensed Certified Art Therapist). She works with people suffering from Eating Disorders at the Renfrew Center, they are a well known agency for treating people with eating disorders.

CS: Thank you Jennifer for giving ClinicallySpeaking some of your time to talk about eating disorders and your experience.  
JL: Absolutely no problem!

CS: In your experience, have you encountered that there are more people suffering from bulimia or anorexia?
JL: In my experience, I have encountered more people suffering from Anorexia then Bulimia, although that is not to say that one is more prevalent then the other.

CS: Is there a more prevalent in certain cultures/ethnicity or do you see it even across the board?
JL: It is definitely uneven, it is more prevalent in middle white class, and over achiever type of personalities. Families that have certain expectations on the actual individual.

CS: Other than having diagnosis, what are the other challenges that come up while treating them?
JL: Many individuals who suffer with eating disorders also struggle with anxiety and depression. Many individuals have encountered some sort of trauma (trauma being a very broad term). ED has very little to do with the actual food (if at all). The food is used as a tool to dissociate and detach from feelings, as well as provides an individual with a sense of comfort and control; in a lot of ways that ED is empowering. While re-teaching ones body to recognize hunger cues and accept food- it is important that one is also learning the meaning behind the food-what does it mean to feed your self/ to allow your self to feel, to take care of you self/ to listen to your emotions, to provide your self with nourishment/nurture? In order to heal the ED it is important to understand its roots, and devise healthy eating habits and coping mechanisms to deal with the underlying problem.

CS: As an art therapist, what techniques do you rely on that are most effective with this population?
JL: Art allows for one to express thoughts and feelings that are indescribable. It turns abstract feelings in to something tangible and approachable, as well as provides one with an opportunity to approach the situation from a different perspective, and in a non-threatening manner. Through creative expression one gains insight into ones self and the situation. I typically provide my patients with some sort of open directive and a choice of materials. It is important to create a structured/safe environment, while also giving the individual the space and freedom to independently explore. Using a variety of different art mediums i.e. paint, collage,plaster... one is encouraged to identify and explore feelings in ones body, explore relationships such as; ones relationship with family, friends, and food. Furthermore, art is used to explore body image, trust, boundaries... the possibilities are endless. I personally encourage my patients to escape their mind and allow their emotions to guide their hand. After finishing, it is then important to reflect back on their work- recognize patterns and themes, identify emotions while creating the art work as well as while reflecting, and create coping mechanism to help appropriately respond to challenging situations.

You can contact Jennifer at for questions, comments, and treatment.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from an Eating Disorder. Here is a link to take short quiz to identify if you need to obtain professional services. Eating Disorders Questionnaire

Top of the week to ya lads and lassies!

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