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Every time a client alters how they think about and behave around food, I realize all over again what a difference therapy can make in the life of someone with eating problems. Of course, as a therapist for nearly 30 years, I’m naturally biased. Yet, I don’t believe I’d keep on meeting with clients day after day, year after year, if I didn’t see people transform their lives before my eyes. I know that the idea of going to therapy scares people—it’s a frightening process to open up to a stranger, hope that life could be better, and work hard to make it happen—but it’s essential if you’ve never been to therapy (or haven’t stayed long enough to benefit) to understand how it helps.
On a concrete level, a therapist offers a new view of yourself through eyes which are compassionate and hopeful. Her job is to listen non-judgmentally and empathize with what you’re going through. It’s one thing to tell your best friend about your latest food binge or bout with bulimia. That friend will probably try to make you feel better about what happened. A therapist, on the other hand, will guide you to understand why you did what you did in order to prevent it happening again. Moreover, she has no axe to grind, no personal story to share that will interfere with getting your needs met. She is there to listen, make suggestions, offer advice when asked, and provide you with alternative ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving which are healthy. In the best of worlds, you can tell your therapist anything (yes, anything) which enables you to bear and, eventually, eliminate shame about dysregulated eating and other things in your life.
Therapy also works on a more abstract level. The relationship itself is healing. Knowing that there’s someone who cares about you and wants you to be well for you (not for her) in itself may prompt you to take better care of yourself. A healthy therapy relationship may be the first positive one in your life, one in which you’re valued and treated with respect and consideration. Over time, being treated well helps you treat yourself better. Sure, insight is important, but what makes therapy work is having a relationship that every child (and adult!) wants: one in which you receive unconditional regard. A therapist acts like the good parent you may not have had, pushing you just enough to risk little leaps of change while being there to help you dust yourself off if you fall.
The best therapy is a collaborate effort between clinician and client, in which each takes responsibility for her part in the process. It’s a microcosm of the best that relationships have to offer and will help you learn how to trust and depend on the right people and negotiate the world effectively—without abusing food.
This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.