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  • Coco Zhu

Mindfull X Shield - Using Art Therapy for Eating Disorder

Did you know art therapy is widely used to treat eating disorders? - or at least the emotional side of ED.

Eating disorders are one of the most complicated disorders, often involving multiple aspects of psychiatric illnesses. As discussed in the previous blog, eating disorders can also have various types, including Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), Pica, Rumination Disorder, Other Specific Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED), Unspecific Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED), and more. An additional layer of complexity, individual differentiation is a huge factor in the unique treatment of each case and why eating disorders develop. As a result, curing eating disorders requires a multi-layer approach, which often includes solving an individual’s emotional path to ED.

Art therapy is a communication-focused therapeutic process. It includes the process of using art to enable patients’ self-expression of a specific overwhelming emotion and cope with it. Therefore, people with eating disorders use art therapy as a valuable tool in their recovery processes. With an introduction to art therapy, patients are encouraged to creatively express complicated feelings and emotions that are otherwise expressed through the control of food. Art therapy gives form to feelings, concerns, and stress which can be understood and addressed.

Some use group art therapies in the treatment process of eating disorders. Such a combination of creativity processes with the help of human connection encourages members to reveal their hidden emotions and acknowledge that they are not alone, and therefore are supported to cope and grow. A more successful example of group art therapy to treat eating disorders is the “Mask Expression Prompt”, where therapists help the group to “take off their masks” and share experiences, which allows self-discovery and creates a place for recovery to start.

Although art therapy can be effective in many ways, we must acknowledge that this method is imperfect. Individual causes for eating disorders can vary and art therapy is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, art therapy is a process that acknowledges the emotions and self-validation in the stressful process of treating eating disorders. We may all benefit from this supportive mindset to move forward.

Writer: Coco Zhu




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