Trauma-Informed Approaches to Eating Disorders is clearly a much needed and long overdue book about treatment, written by a diverse group of clinicians and carefully edited to focus on the needs and strengths of clinicians. The complexities and challenges that undergird, surround, and even haunt the nature, diagnosis, treatment, management, and understanding of eating disorders (EDs)-in-relation-to-trauma are so great, even for veteran clinicians, that they can leave practitioners at any level of experience feeling helpless and exhausted. This book, in a way that would be appreciated by practitioners of acceptance and commitment therapy, accepts the reality of those feelings and is committed to improving treatment, understanding, and compassion. The book is designed to foster respect for complexity and link it to humility in the presence of tragedy, tribulations, and suffering, framed all too often by our own shortcomings as healers. EDs are dangerous, ubiquitous, usually chronic in nature, and difficult to treat. Anorexia nervosa (AN) has the highest fatality rate (4%) of any mental illness. Bulimia nervosa reveals a fatality rate of 3.9%. EDs offer an enormous challenge to therapists because of their complexity, which includes severe medical risk, co-occurring anxiety, depression and personality disorders, an addiction component, and body image distortion—all of this within a mediadriven culture of thinness in which starving and purging can for some become lifestyle choices. This complexity is further exacerbated by the presence of painful life experiences or trauma. The book elucidates the connection between trauma and EDs by offering a trauma-informed phase model, as well as chapters describing the ways in which various therapeutic models address each of those phases. It offers an in-depth exposition of a fourphase model of trauma treatment.
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This chapter focuses on an interpersonal/relational psychodynamic approach to working with eating disorders (EDs), which illuminates the links between symptom and meaning, action and words, isolation and relatedness. The work of any treatment of EDs is an ongoing, complicated mixture of direct intervention with the symptom and exploration of what the intervention means to the patient, including the role the symptom plays in the patient’s intrapsychic and interpersonal world. Understanding this as it unfolds relationally allows the intersubjective experience of both patient and therapist to collide, mingle, and ultimately coexist. Thinking about working with patients with EDs from this vantage point means that the experience of conflict is a therapeutic gain, not obstacle. Multiplicity and the capacity for dissociation are seen as part of the manifestations of what happens with patients with EDs.
This chapter deals with structural dissociation in the treatment of trauma and eating disorders. Dissociation is the inability to stay present when intolerable feelings and mental contents are activated. It is a way of making the overwhelming less overwhelming. A dissociative process is an unconscious attempt to sequester the intolerable away into the recesses of the mind, never to be contacted again. The chapter uses structural dissociation theory of the personality. Structural dissociation theory distinguishes two action systems that govern human behavior. The first action system is daily life and second action system is defense. The theory defines three levels of dissociation, primary dissociation, secondary dissociation, tertiary dissociation. Treating dissociation is a phase-oriented approach. The first phase is stabilization and preparation for trauma reprocessing. This is where the dissociation is treated. The second phase is reprocessing the painful memories. The third phase is full consolidation and integration.
This chapter explores the neurological link between trauma and eating disorders (EDs) by describing one of humans’ basic functions: response to stressors. Adverse life events interact with the genome and developmental processes, leading to biological changes that predispose one to a broad range of psychiatric problems, including EDs. The mechanisms involved include abnormalities in the stress response, changes in appetite, altered reward sensitivity, and increased sensitivity to rejection. Specific genes increase one’s susceptibility to stressful experiences, and stressful experiences have the ability to alter one’s genes (i.e., epigenetics). Epigenetics refers to the way in which environmental exposures have the capacity to influence the genome in a way that affects later gene expression. Findings from epigenetic research and neural-based interventions offer evidence against the long-standing understanding of genes and neurocircuitry as “rigid” structures.
Hypnosis relates to when a person’s behavior shows he or she is in a trance like frame of mind, dissociated from his or her usual conscious awareness. Hypnosis challenges the polarization between the different aims of behavioral and analytical therapy. The reports of many of the patient shows the real source of their distress, and sometimes seem to make the problem worse. This has been eloquently expressed by a young doctor, a survivor of childhood anorexia. “When you live with anorexia, you fight your own thoughts and fears, your own self, every second of every minute of the day. Recognizing this spontaneous hypnosis or trance state as a clinical sign involves a different level of listening skills, a modified approach to history taking and to all the advice given. The focus of therapy is turned from the past to the future from regression to progression.
Energy psychology comprises a body of knowledge and a family of therapeutic modalities that are concerned with the interface between mind and body, mediated by working with the body’s subtle energy system. Although the mechanism is uncertain, research indicates that such methods do work, bringing about emotional, cognitive, and physiological changes rather faster than would be expected with purely talk-based psychotherapies. Another important component used by some practitioners is “energy testing” sometimes known as “muscle testing”, although it is not the muscles tested, but small variations in muscle tone are considered to provide information about both psychological and energetic states. This chapter discusses two case studies where, energy testing revealed significant internal objections to resolving their eating disorders (EDs). It concludes that energy psychology modalities form useful additional components of psychotherapeutic approach to EDs, helping to alleviate the intensity of emotional distress and facilitate the flow of energy and information.
This chapter provides a brief description on trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and eating disorders (EDs). CBT has proven to be the most well-supported approach for EDs in the empirical research. It is considered the first-line “treatment of choice” for individuals diagnosed with bulimia nervosa and recommended for the treatment of anorexia nervosa (AN), atypical EDs, and binge eating disorders (BED). Furthermore, multiple studies have demonstrated the efficacy of using CBT for post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma symptoms. CBT for EDs is approximately 20 sessions for treating bulimia nervosa or BED, whereas treatment for anorexia nervosa can require a much longer treatment, typically lasting 1 to 2 years. Addressing trauma work will add to the number of sessions. CBT for EDs and for trauma can be done concurrently or sequenially. Deciding on the format can be done on the basis of clinical presentation and in collaboration with the client.
- Go to chapter: Discovering the Power of Movement: Dance/Movement Therapy in the Treatment of Eating Disorders and Trauma
Discovering the Power of Movement: Dance/Movement Therapy in the Treatment of Eating Disorders and Trauma
Dance and movement therapist and psychologist Ann Krantz believes that “the symptoms of eating disorders (EDs) serve to disconnect affect from the body, particularly as sexuality, trauma, and cultural influences contribute to conflicts in the woman’s [individual’s] developmental struggle toward self-identity”. Individuals suffering from both trauma and EDs have difficulty making their “house” a “home”. They often run away from “home” in an attempt to feel safer, centering their lives on using emotionally driven behaviors as a way of attempting to alleviate the often horrific anxiety they might otherwise experience. Dance and movement therapists weave together nonverbal dialogues that transform everyday movements into expressive communication. The cognitive markers can be used by therapists and patients alike to decode, track, and understand the experiences that fit into the bigger picture of their lives.
This chapter provides a brief description on eating disorders and the case for emotions. Throughout this chapter, the author have used the terms “emotion” and “feeling” interchangeably, although neurologically they can be understood as different stages of the emotional experience. Much of this chapter is how the author teach clients emotional courage and competence, but it has also helped many clinicians in their own journeys. Change is what we most often fear, even if it means shaking off toxic residue and stepping into the unknown of a different and healthier identity. So-called “good” feelings often end up scaring us as much as the “bad” ones, because they, too, invite change. Feeling requires courage. The emotion knocking on your door is letting you know that you have reason to be excited or fearful and that your aliveness is calling you to a larger version of yourself.
This chapter presents a guide for assessing comorbid eating disorders (EDs) and trauma in a way that shapes and directs treatment. It draws together a combination of assessment tools and principles from the fields of EDs, trauma, and generic mental health, as there is limited literature available on this specific area of assessment. The chapter summarizes various aspects of assessment into distinct sets of guidelines, to help steer the clinician and client through a vast maze of information toward a meaningful formulation and treatment plan. It provides a road map to facilitate comprehensive assessments that lead to the construction of insightful formulations and the delivery of engaging treatment plans. The authors believe that trauma-informed ED assessment guides safe and effective treatment, shining a beacon of light on the road toward transformation and healing.