How art psychotherapy can help treat eating disorders

Eating disorders are some of the most widespread and complex mental health conditions in the world. According to recent estimates, approximately 1.6 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder of some kind.

Characterised by unhealthy eating behaviours that include eating too much or too little, and worrying about your body shape, eating disorders can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. However, studies suggest that they are most prevalent among girls aged 13-17.

The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, at 8 percent, 19 percent, and 22 percent respectively. It is thought that people are more likely to suffer from one of these eating disorders if a member of their family is also affected.

Although a range of treatments for eating disorders exist, one of the most effective is art psychotherapy. 

What is art psychotherapy?

Art psychotherapy is an approach to psychotherapy that uses art as its primary means of expression. Rather than a diagnostic tool, it is a medium through which patients can address emotional issues, neurological conditions, physical illnesses, and mental health problems.

Done either in groups or one-on-one sessions, art psychotherapy does not rely on previous experience in art, but instead encourages clients to express themselves freely through a creative process.

The goal of art psychotherapy is to help people suffering from psychological disorders to find new ways of coping with their problems, exploring their emotions, developing self-awareness, and boosting self-esteem. Sessions are usually held by professionally trained art therapists who can help guide classes and analyse the artwork in relation to each client’s experience.

Art psychotherapy is usually done in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

How can art psychotherapy be used to treat eating disorders?

One of the most important parts of treating eating disorders is to give the affected person a “voice” – in other words, to provide them with an outlet for expression. Often people with eating disorders have a lot of internal conflict that can only be solved when it’s put out into the open. 

However, many people find it difficult to find the words to express themselves properly. This can lead to frustration, anger, and depression. 

Art psychotherapy presents sufferers of eating disorders with an opportunity to express themselves without the need to use words or develop an extensive vocabulary. 

As one expert from the American Art Therapy Association puts it, “the art that an individual creates can provide a voice for aspects of experiences and feelings for which there are no words, and provide a bridge to direct communication.”

Furthermore, it’s understood that an obsession with food and weight are often attempts to cope with deeper emotions such as depression, anger, loss, and powerlessness. 

Yet when the focus on food and weight is transferred into an engagement with art materials, the sufferer develops a new “language” with which to express these emotions. As a result, things like body image, self-esteem, and a sense of autonomy can all be strengthened.

Group art psychotherapy sessions can be particularly useful in the treatment of eating disorders. This is because when others open up about their internal conflicts through art, it can help others put their disorders into perspective and realise they’re not alone.

At Philippe Jacquet & Associates we run both one-on-one and group art psychotherapy sessions for people suffering from eating disorders. Using our wealth of experience, we can help give you a voice and solve the internal conflict you may be dealing with. We are trained in all aspects of art psychotherapy, which means we can not only set up a safe environment but also offer analysis of your creative output. Book a session with us today and work towards a better future.


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