counselling psychotherapy

“The idea of having children terrifies me. Truly, on a deep level.”

A 31-year-old married woman has opened her heart in a letter to Mamamia. She says that deep down, she’s uncertain if she should be trying to get pregnant or not.

Read the full article with my suggestions on how to determine whether or not to have children as well as some of the underlying reasons that might be holding you back.

Image Credit: Mamamia

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About Jodie

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private supervision, counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

I’m excited to have become an Australian Centre for Eating Disorders (ACFED) approved practitioner. Over the next few years I will be working towards GOLD membership.

ACFED train psychotherapists,  psychologists, social workers, counsellors, registered nurses and dieticians in theory and skills related to eating disorders (including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and orthorexia), obesity and nutrition. If you are looking for an eating disorder specialist in your area, you can find a list of approved practitioners on their website.

About The Australian Centre for Eating Disorders (ACFED) via their website:

“The Australian Centre for Eating Disorders (ACFED) offers training to a wide range of health care professionals on the best practice treatment of eating disorders.  ACFED also provides sufferers and their loved ones with a directory of qualified health professionals, making it easier for them to find the right support.

The Australian Centre for Eating Disorders is the leading independent provider of professional development in Eating Disorders and Obesity for health professionalism Australia and New Zealand.

Their mission is to develop and deliver effective, evidence based professional development opportunities in Eating Disorders and Obesity to health professionals and to develop a network of ACFED Approved health professionals with a high standard of skills and resources.”

About Jodieas-seen-in-december-16-pink

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private supervision, counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Image Credit: Shrink Rap Radio

A Jungian Understanding of The Fat Complex with Cheryl Fuller on Shrink Rap Radio, is without a doubt one of the most informative and enlightening conversations I have listened to in a long time.

Whilst this podcast is a must listen for all – it is essential listening for mental health and wellness professionals.

Why?

Because amongst several thought changing discussions about fat phobia, fat trauma, unhealthy and healthy at any size, the war on obesity and the rise of anorexia, Cheryl discusses Yalom’s essay on the Fat Lady within the context of the fat shaming and thin privilege she personally experienced by several of her own therapists – where love and care, regardless of one’s size, is expectable.

She says,

“I have encountered what I call the thin gaze and with it the assumption that I should want to lose weight. The thin gaze, arising from thin privilege, is the objectifying gaze cast upon the fat person by someone who is not fat.”

About Cheryl Fuller

Cheryl Fuller is a Jungian psychotherapist living on the coast of Maine. She is passionate about depth psychology, psychotherapy, feminism and fat studies. Her new book, The Fat Lady Sings, weaves these threads into a tapestry of personal experience, critique of psychoanalytic theory and treatment of fatness, all in the context of the war on obesity. Her life is and has been the life of a fat woman which naturally feeds her interest in the lived experience of fat people, the absence of such voices in discussions of weight, and in the effects of fat phobia and what she terms the cultural fat complex.

She has published essays on Medea, fat politics, and embodiment. Cheryl holds a BA in Psychology from Duke University, an MA in clinical Psychology from the University of Connecticut, and a PhD in Jungian Studies from the Union Institute.

About Jodieas-seen-in-december-16-pink

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private supervision, counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

This is one of my all time favourite episodes of the Women In-Depth: Conversations About the Inner Lives of Women Podcast.

Our early relationships with our primary caregivers have a profound impact on our emerging sense of self.

In my depth psychotherapy work with women, exploring the mother-wound and how to become a nourishing mother to the inner child is a powerful part of the journey, particularly for those with eating disorders and other food, weight and body image concerns.

Lourdes Viado, creator and host of Women In-Depth and Bethany Webster from Womb of Light discuss in this episode:

• How the Mother Wound affects all aspects of a woman’s life
• How having an abortion at 19 changed Bethany’s life perspective
• Working on childhood history and spirituality
• Devaluing the feminine
• How the Mother Wound is a product of patriarchy
• How it is a universal wound
• The importance of looking within
• Moving towards being a culture of depth and reflection
• How you can carry your energy differently and create change
• Healing the Mother Wound through an algorithm of safety
• Re-parenting your inner child that wasn’t mothered
• How the Mother Wound has three levels
• Repeating unhealthy motherhood behaviors in our adult life
• How the disconnect with our mothers resonates in our feeling towards life
• Dealing with taboos and stereotypes around the Mother Wound
• Realizing mothers can’t fill all our needs
• Why this isn’t simply bringing up the past
• To see the Mother Wound as a tool of empowerment

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did!

Healing the Mother Wound with Lourdes Viado and Bethany Webster

About Jodieas-seen-in-december-16-pink

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Image Credit: Netflix

To the Bone Review

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the Netflix movie, To the Bone. As a former long-time sufferer of bulimia and as a counsellor and psychotherapist who has worked for nearly 20 years with women suffering with eating disorders – I get it.

I viewed To the Bone as a slice of one person’s struggle, at one point in time. Unfortunately that means it can’t be representative of all people who suffer and all types of eating disorders. From this place, I didn’t find it as bad as some of the reviews because it does raise some important talking points. The only real disappointment for me is that it lacked a depth exploration of the main character Ellen’s suffering and what it really takes to recover.

 

Here are my thoughts about To the Bone (with spoilers):

The focus on the dysfunctional relationships within Ellen’s family system

The story starts by highlighting the relationships between Ellen and her family. Ellen’s mother and father are separated. We don’t see the father throughout the movie – he is physically and emotionally absent. Ellen’s mother and step mother are completely unaware of Ellen’s needs and are distracted by their own lives. Ellen lacks a nourishing mother.

There is sometimes a reluctance amongst eating disorder therapists to talk about how certain parenting styles contribute to the development of the eating disorder. This is concerning considering in nearly 20 years of working with women with food, weight and body image concerns, almost every client I have worked with has grown up in a family where she has suffered at very least childhood emotional neglect, at worse, narcissistic wounding and complex trauma related to experiences within the family system.

The child with the eating disorder is often expressing the dysfunction within the family system; she does this through her behaviours and symptoms. Her body and her relationship with food, express what her words cannot. The tragedy is that the whole family is in crisis but the focus turns to the ‘sick child’ (who often feels like the problem). This is not about blaming families, rather, thinking systemically about what is really going on within the whole family system.

I like that To the Bone highlights this but I felt it lacked a depth exploration, particularly in the therapy scenes. Focusing on calorie counting and other behaviours distracts from the deep suffering that Ellen is experiencing. It also stops the audience from really connecting with Ellen’s pain. Like treatments that only focus on meal plans, food and weight restoration, To the Bone gets caught on the surface, rather than seeking to understand the whole story, the underlying trauma, and the value, meaning and purpose of the symptoms. To achieve long-term recovery, the focus needs to be redirected to the underlying emotional, cultural, psychological and spiritual concerns.

Ellen connects with others in a group home treatment facility

Whilst there didn’t appear to be a lot of supervision at the group home, I liked that it showed how Ellen was able to build connections with others in treatment. As we know, many of the issues underlying eating and weight issues are relational and attachment related.

Some reviews of the movie are concerned that it focused on a glamorised, smoky eyed, attractive white female. It’s important for the public to understand that disordered eating comes in all types, shapes and sizes. I liked that the residential treatment centre included different types of people (including a guy), different types of body sizes and different types of eating disorder behaviours and symptoms.

Ellen hits rock bottom

There is a lot of criticism about this part of the storyline. Not everyone hits rock bottom before they seek treatment and not everyone needs to hit rock bottom before they seek treatment.

My personal experience is that I did hit rock bottom and shortly after, I found a psychotherapist who specialised in eating disorders. It was the start of our 6 year journey in weekly therapy together; therapy that ultimately helped me save my life.

So although this storyline doesn’t fit for everyone – it is certainly something I have personally experienced as well as many of the women I have worked with over the years. Wanting to die, versus the realisation of, ‘I might actually die’, can often be the motivating force for choosing recovery.

Ellen’s dream in the desert

The scene where Ellen goes to the desert really spoke to me. When I first entered my own counselling and psychotherapy for bulimia, my therapist shared with me an article by Jungian Analyst, Mary Esther Harding, ‘The value and meaning of depression’.

‘Depression’, she says, ‘symbolises a psychological condition or experience when one has the feeling of being in a desert, or in the wilderness – a feeling of being lost, lost in a barren region, so lost that one is in a state of despair.’

‘For the wilderness of course is a place where there is no water. Life is precarious, human life almost impossible. A human being in the wilderness is alone, isolated, [her] life in danger’

The name ‘wilderness’ means wild-land and wherever the wilderness appears in a myth or a dream, it refers to a place of stagnation, where there is no life, where everything is arid and nothing can grow. In psychology it refers to a condition of having this same characteristic – a condition where the flame of life sinks. All energy sinks into the unconscious and the individual suffers from depression and inertia.’

‘A spirit of dullness and gloom and hopelessness falls upon one at such time and nothing seems worthwhile. Life has temporarily lost its meaning.’

This is exactly what it feels like to be stuck in the despair of the depression underlying the eating disorder. Life has lost all value, meaning and purpose. It is a place of no life energy and no will.

Essential to long-term recovery is an exploration of value, meaning and purpose at two levels:

  1. How has the eating disorder been of value? What is its meaning? How has it served? What is the emerging purpose of the symptoms? What are the symptoms calling for the person to awaken to in themselves?
  2. Life has lost its value, meaning and purpose. The work of recovery is a spiritual journey to discover that which brings value, meaning and purpose in life.

To the Bone offers hope

Ellen and her fellow companions in treatment all have a bumpy recovery journey – this is resonant with real life recovery. After Ellen’s experience in the desert and hitting rock bottom, her life energy and will was no longer trapped and she made a choice to go back into treatment. For me, this shows that even though recovery is full of ups and downs, it is always possible. The ending was a hopeful one.

Hope is the starting point for recovery.

For therapists working with eating disorders, the person suffering comes to us drowning in a sea of despair and hopelessness; it’s therefore imperative that we hold hope and continue to nourish her until she is able to do this for herself.

To the Bone is triggering

Yes it is. And … so is life.

In the height of my eating disorder, I couldn’t leave the house without being triggered. I was triggered by my reflection in the shop window, the Krispy Kreme that popped up on the corner of my street, the diet talk around my office lunch table, the Weight Watchers advertisement on the billboard opposite my house, the cover of a magazine with headlines, ‘size 0’. For those suffering with eating and weight concerns, we are bombarded with images of how women should look and how they should eat. For me, flickering through Instagram celebrities and wellness warriors is just as triggering, if not more so. MacKenzie, the physician who treated Noxon who produced To the Bone says,  “I don’t think there are any triggers in there that young people of today are not already exposed to,” .For someone in the grips or recovery from an eating disorder, the trigger list is endless.

To recover, it’s about,

  • knowing that triggers are extremely challenging
  • learning to manage these challenges as part of recovery
  • understanding that even when we are triggered, we have a choice about how we respond to the trigger
  • realising that when we are triggered, it is not a time for acting out but a time to look inwards to build our capacity for self-exploration and self-awareness

What do people who have suffered with disordered eating make of To the Bone?

As with 13 Reasons Why, I asked the women I work with what they thought of To the Bone. Shared with permission here,

‘I didn’t feel so alone after watching it’

‘It was a good movie and it made me feel hopeful’

‘Not the best it could have been but I’m glad eating disorders are finally in the spotlight’

‘It’s really got people talking; that’s a good thing’

‘The reviews said it glamorized anorexia, I didn’t feel it did, that’s just what it is like’

‘I liked it and could totally identify with all of the characters’

‘It was ok but I wish they showed how much pain is being covered up’

‘It was painful to watch because it reminded me of how I used to be’

‘That could have been my family, it was spot on’

‘I realised that I actually have an eating disorder’

Should you watch To the Bone?

If you are struggling with any kind of food, weight and body image concern, use discernment about whether you should watch this movie. In an ideal world, my recommendation would be to watch prior to your therapy session or with your therapist or other support person so that you can process the themes in the movie with care.

About Jodieas-seen-in-december-16-pink

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Media contributions

Australia Counselling Best Mental Health Blogger

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