Eating Disorders, Art and Therapy

bulimia_art_therapyArt based psychotherapy's use of non-verbal forms of expression, for example, colours, shapes, textures and sounds, to help our clients connect with issues that may reside in the unconscious mind and therefore be difficult for clients to access. This can be a valuable opportunity to get in touch with feelings which may be difficult to articulate with words.


Art Based Psychotherapy

One of the treatments offered at Life Works is group art based psychotherapy. Art therapy encourages the client to express thoughts, feelings and somatic sensations through the creative process of art-making and free artistic expression. By working with colors, shapes, symbols, and images the client is able to connect with issues that may reside in the unconscious mind and therefore be difficult to access otherwise. Typically the art based psychotherapy group begins with a guided relaxation and visualization exercise to prepare the mind for imagination and visual imagery. Importantly, the focus is on the process of the artistic creation itself, rather than on the end product.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Art, when combined with therapy, offers a powerful therapeutic form of nonverbal communication that has become an increasingly relied upon tool in the treatment of a number of physical and psychological issues. It has proven particularly popular with our clients, who express joy in working in a modality that allows for creative expression and relies less on cognitive thinking and verbal articulation.

On a scientific note some of the qualities of art therapy are the re-engagement with the brain’s right hemisphere, the part of the brain typically responsible for emotions as well as the production of dreams. While much of our daily life and schooling is geared towards stimulating left-hemisphere functions (the area of the brain responsible for logic, rationality, and language), less attention is being paid to the functions of the right hemisphere, where creativity resides.

When we express ourselves creatively we engage with the right hemisphere and art based psychotherapy is an important way of doing this. Through this non verbal expression we bypass the rational thought and the censorship of the brain and are able to explore what comes forth when we allow expression of our unconscious mind.

Treatment of eating disorders using Art Therapy

Art based psychotherapy is often regarded as a welcome relief for the clients at Life Works, allowing people to free themselves from needing to talk and think articulately. For the eating disordered clients in particular, the use of art to express thoughts and emotions, have proven very valuable.

Regardless of the type of eating disorder, the client’s relationship with food can be directly expressed through the use of materials. In this way, the bulimic may use a variety of colors, large pieces of papers, whilst engaging with the art creation in an uninhibited and ‘messy’ way, whereas the anorexic is likely to adopt a far more controlled and restricted creative palate.

The purging behavior in bulimics can be regarded as a way of getting rid of unwanted or undesired feelings. Incorporating art based psychotherapy into a bulimic’s treatment has shown to be beneficial for treatment of the purging behavior of the disorder. By tapping into the unconscious through the creation of art, the art itself can potentially come to represent a purge, allowing the bulimic client to express and explore what the purging is intended to get rid of.

Whereas the bulimic client purge out emotions, the anorexic client starves them. The anorexic’s need for control can be worked with, not against, in art based psychotherapy, as the client has control of the media, and what is expressed. For the anorexic the need to feel a sense of control is essential, so starting to paint can represent a bold step into the unknown. In this way, art therapy is valuable in restoring a sense of security and exploring the issue of needing to be in control.

Psychotherapy at Life Works

Life Works offers a range of treatment modalities for the client to enjoy a varied a balanced program in order to heal psychologically, physically, and spiritually.

Commitment to Recovery
Forgiveness in Recovery