Creativity’s Role in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Anyone in recovery has to deal with the two-headed monster of internal feelings and external conditions. But for those in recovery from an eating disorder, those outer conditions are trickier because they include one’s physical body.

The Healing Arts

One of the supports for eating disorder recovery lies within a therapy known as experiential art. Any and all medium types can offer a melding of those inner feelings with outer perceptions around body issues.
Utilizing imagery, creativity and the arts in the healing process is an age-old practice that transcends time and culture…-Sue Kimball

Sue Kimball, an art therapist, says, “Utilizing imagery, creativity and the arts in the healing process is an age-old practice that transcends time and culture…it is a means to gain self-awareness, reconnect to the strength of soul/spirit and to influence desired change. Creative experience breathes life back into what has often become an empty routine of existence.”

Showcasing Therapeutic Artwork

The Renfrew Center, one of the nation’s oldest eating disorder recovery programs for women and teenage girls, recently hosted an art exhibit in New Jersey showcasing some of the art. A hosted program during the exhibit offered public interpretation and discussion of the art.

Participants are often surprised when, through the simple process of committing visions to paper, they’re able to take the focus off themselves and therapeutically begin to remove the power from the eating disorder and give it back to themselves.

“Pictures can facilitate personal exploration and provide a safe vent for strong emotions such as anger, depression, fear, anxiety, or hate,” writes Kathleen Slade Hoffer.

“They can help the patient to ‘express the mess.’ Women with eating disorders hate their emotional “mess” which is often symbolically flushed down the toilet in secret. ‘Purging’ on paper can become an important transitional tool for the therapist and the patient as she unlocks her hidden inner world.”

Getting the Most from Art Therapy

For those recovering from eating disorders, art therapy provides an opportunity to break down old feelings, foster the beginnings of regeneration and represent a totem of personal accomplishments.

If a person needs to break through something meaningful, an art instructor might suggest finger-paints prior to using acrylics. For regeneration, clay might be used for a 3D demonstration.

And tats? Body ink symbolizes looking at one’s body in a whole new light…a light that can only shine through after someone commits to breaking down unhealthy patterns and regenerating them with new, healthy ones. Eating disorder recovery tattoos are extremely sentimental; they are beautiful pieces of artwork meant to forever commemorate a commitment to being healthy, loving one’s self and being happy with who you are.

Body art in the form of recovery tattoos gives an entirely new – and welcome – meaning to “skin deep.”
Learn more about choosing the right eating disorder recovery center.

Image Credits: WeAreTheRealDeal/ArtTherapyBlog/Twitter

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