Eating Disorders are riddled with shame and secrecy, and it is important for those struggling with eating disorders to know they will be heard without judgment. For many clients it is hard for them to tell the story of the eating disorder because it activates their internal pain and often forces them to confront their distorted perceptions of themselves, their inner struggles and the wreckage that the disorder has caused in their lives and the lives of others.
Listening to the story is vital to the client’s recovery. As counselors we offer a place without judgment for people with eating disorders to come share their story. Through our doors they find a place where they learn that this disorder has little to do with food and more to do with control/emotions and inner psyche. We can give them a language to define what is going on inside of them. Concepts that teach them that their true self is not an eating disorder can help break the cycle for them.
We cannot take away their eating disorder by simply telling them what or how to eat, rather we must help them come to recognize that the eating disorder is a maladaptive coping skill that is harming them, while supporting them to learn how to emotionally regulate. The process of treatment can be very complicated, but you do not need to be a professional to listen to and support someone with an eating disorder. If you are reading this thinking “but I’m not a therapist, how can I help my loved one?” I leave you with the following quote:
“When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” – Henri Nouwen
Written by Ariel Whitlock, MFT Intern at Cielo House Belmont.