Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Art Therapy has been provided to patients at Avalon Hills for the last two years as one of multiple alternatives to traditional “talk therapy” in eating disorder recovery work. Art Therapy has proven to be a particularly useful tool in treating eating disordered behaviors. Art and eating disorders are similar in nature in that they both serve to enable expression without words. Individuals struggling with eating disorders are often unable to express their innermost thoughts and feelings. They are unable to adequately verbalize the inner turmoil, rage, shame, guilt, and powerlessness that controls their every waking moment. Art allows these individuals to speak in a safe and acceptable way rather than through their disorder.
The projects of Art Therapy groups are varied and include body image tracings, self portraits, life collages, emotion sculptures and others specifically designed to encourage expression of deeper thought and feeling. Art Therapy sessions are held weekly in the format of a group session. The session begins with a brief introduction of the assignment followed by ample time allotted for exploring and experimenting with different mediums. Topics can be explicitly defined or abstract in nature based on the desired outcomes as determined by the therapist. The end of each session is followed up with time to share and process what has come up for each patient during the art experience. Discussion of each patient’s experience allows the therapist and group to connect in a non-threatening way through artistic expression and reflection.
As patients reveal their feelings and emotions in their creations, a strong therapeutic alliance is formed. This alliance serves to facilitate healing and aids in establishing a “voice” for the inner turmoil and pain. In time, patients begin to develop a sense of trust in their own feelings and their ability to speak about them. The power behind Art Therapy is the opening of a dialogue without words or language but one which in reality speaks volumes. Over the last few years, I have seen time and time again women finding more of themselves through art and art therapy work and gaining the insight needed for forward movement in their personal recovery.
The women in my group today are in various stages of recovery but they all have the same goal….to reclaim their lives free from their eating disorder. They all want the “color” back in their world. I am privileged to be along on their journey to recovery.
Kathryn Clements, LCSW