Counselling research tells us that the relationship between a counsellor and a client is the key to successful and effective therapy. The relationship is even more important than the style or methods a counsellor uses. My goal is for every client to feel supported, heard and understood. When challenging discussions are needed, they will happen in a caring and compassionate way. Feedback is always welcome about how therapy is going and whether changes need to be made in our work together.
Areas of Focus
My counselling experience is primarily with adults who have eating disorders, including: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. I am happy to work alongside other dietitians if you're already seeing someone else for nutrition work.
You do not need to have an eating disorder to book an appointment. Counselling can also be helpful for emotional eating (or not eating), feeling “stuck” in trying to improve your health, or adjusting to major lifestyle changes after a medical diagnosis.
Because problems with eating rarely exist in isolation, I also have experience helping clients with issues beyond nutrition and physical health. These include depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviours, relationship problems, trauma and substance abuse.
Philosophy of Therapy
To treat problems with eating, it is important to look beyond food. Eating behaviours are complex, so learning about nutrition isn’t always enough to make lasting change. It can be important to talk about how eating problems began, the functions they serve, the consequences for your quality of life, and what makes eating difficult to change.
I see eating disorder symptoms and other unhealthy eating behaviours as attempts to cope with painful or overwhelming emotions. Underneath the symptoms are difficult life experiences, unexpressed feelings, unmet needs, unhelpful (and often untrue) messages we carry about ourselves and the world, and changes in relationships (e.g. isolating or withdrawing). Understanding these feelings and patterns can go a long way toward being able to change behaviours, accept ourselves and reconnect with others.
The Therapy Process
Because there are so many factors that influence our relationship with food, I use an integrated counselling approach. I am emotion-focused, emphasizing the layers of feelings underneath our actions. Therapy will be tailored to your unique needs. We may use cognitive approaches to address unhelpful thinking patterns and behavioural approaches to change habits and avoid triggers. Principles from Marsha Linehan’s dialectical behaviour therapy can be also helpful for coping with distress, mindfulness, managing emotions and patterns in relationships.
There is a lot of emerging research about the importance of self-compassion in making changes. I integrate compassion-focused therapy into my work. Some people mistake compassion for “making excuses” or “staying with the status quo”. Instead, I encourage a balance between taking responsibility for making changes and forgiving ourselves for mistakes, so we can learn and grow from difficult times.
Also deeply integrated into my work are acceptance and commitment therapy (balancing acceptance and change), and Brene Brown’s research on resilience in the face of shame.