A Holistic Approach to Eating Disorder Recovery

As we enter our second year of operation, we’re really excited to be expanding our group and workshop offerings to offer a broad, creative range of offerings for mental health. With exciting wellness-focused groups and workshops including art, improv, tarot and mindfulness, there’s really something for everyone. 

Today, we’re talking with our Clinical Director, Abby Rozen, about our first collaborative holistic group offering at Healing Collective, which focuses around eating disorder recovery. 

Why did you decide to run this group?

Recovering from disordered eating is a daunting and often lonely task. We feel isolated and stuck within the shame, often believing that we are the only ones who suffer like this. “I’m doing this for attention,” “I have no reason to struggle like this,” “if only I could just have enough willpower to make it stop,” and even “I don’t want to recover because this is the only thing I’m good at” are some of the thoughts my clients have shared with me. While entrenched in these thoughts, people cannot even begin to believe that there are others who could be experiencing the exact same things.

Working with Eating Disorders/Disordered eating/poor body image can be incredibly daunting. People are plagued by misogynistic messages that they are unworthy unless they fit into a very specific beauty prototype which is constantly changing. As it turns out, none of us are enough. None of us are worthy. We are stewed in a culture of toxic shame that is designed to make us feel less than. Aside from the cultural factors, there are genetic components to eating disorders, as well as messages from our family we receive about food (ex/ eat for comfort, eat for celebrations, eat for entertainment). The complex layers of recovery often feel convoluted, especially given the ambivalence many people feel about recovery. Ultimately, people do not choose eating disorders, but they do have to make a choice about actively choosing recovery.

As a Therapist who focuses on Eating Disorders I can say that I’ve seen it all. All types of people, all types of behaviours, and all types of hopelessness. Therapy can be transformative, and over the years I’ve seen the role that group therapy can play for people’s recovery. Added to that, I know how important it is to look outside of the box when we look at ways of treating our mental health. When I was asked (repeatedly) to run this group I wanted to expand the horizons of the participants, and to expose them to modalities that they might be hesitant to try. Consider this group to be a supportive collective of people with a smorgasbord of modalities in which we use to explore our deeper issues.

Who should sign up?

Anyone who considers themselves struggling with an eating disorder, disordered eating, and body image issues that impacts their mental health on a daily basis (Contact Abby to make sure this group is right for you). In this group we ask how can we embody our recovery experience in new ways? How can we connect to self-worth and self-love that doesn’t solely rely on talking thru our feelings and challenging our shame with words? How can we connect to the emotional experience when we have spent our entire lives sweeping it under the rug? What will happen when we see other people struggling with the same shame and self-hatred, and know that we are not alone? There is power in the shared experience, and there is joy in feeling seen and connected.

How do you know this group is right for you?

You’re interested in being in a supportive group therapy process. You might be scared, but you’re willing to chance it. You are willing to look deeper into some of the underlying issues that fuel that internal shame shit storm that forces you into dark places. You understand or are curious about how group support differs from individual support. You are interested in other approaches to therapy but aren’t sure which one might work for you. You are just a human trying to work out your shit and are open to new ways of doing it.

What can participants take away from this group?

Ideally a sense of community, support, and the realization that they are not alone in their shame when it comes to disordered eating and body image. In past groups, one of the most exciting realizations for clients was learning that regardless of how your shame/disordered eating manifests, everyone is struggling with similar thoughts and struggles. I’m hoping that every person in this group walks away with a greater sense of awareness & self-acceptance, more insights and new coping skills that they can apply in their everyday life. Bonus if they decide to pursue one of these modalities as part of their healing process after finishing the group.

Why is this group important to you? 

Having worked with Eating Disorders since I was a new therapist, it feels like I’ve witnessed almost every dark corner imaginable when it comes to self-hate, shame, body dysmorphia and disordered eating. I often tell my clients “I’ve seen it all, nothing surprises me.” What I’ve learned is to have unconditional positive regard and support for my clients. You are worth it. You can do this, but it won’t be easy. And I’m here for it – all of it, so bring it. My approach is outside of the box, creative and compassionate. Last week a client and I used Lizzo lyrics to talk back to the eating disorder. We need to be creative because those damn thoughts are so creative and sneaky when you’re just trying to live your life. I work with my clients to help them cut the bullshit, feel empowered, and take back what is rightfully theirs and theirs alone (their bodies and their lived experiences!). 

This group has been something that has been percolating for many months (at the request of a client) and it finally feels right in all the ways.

What is a holistic group? Why is it beneficial for disordered eating? 

So, what is a holistic group? What is this jargon? Specifically, this group will bring in a variety of practitioners who do things differently than I do. We will look at the issues and find complementary ways to address them – think outside of the traditional box.  We will have Ashley who attributes much of her recovery to her improv work (get ready to laugh). Jenn will bring in Yoga with a focus on resilience. Jess will use Dance Movement Therapy to process our emotions and experiences in new ways. Tara will teach us DBT skills to expand our coping arsenal, and Deb will use art for us to gain new insights. All of these things can be scary, because we haven’t tried them before. Scary but in a good way. Scary but in a supported and secure way. Who knows, you might learn something new.

To sign up for Abby’s group, please email her at abby@abbyrozen.com

If you’re a practitioner and you’d like to run a group, or have a topic to collaborate on, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@healingcollective.ca.


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