EMDR Therapy and Eating Disorders Go With That Magazine Issue
We invited several authors to write about using EMDR therapy and Eating Disorders in the Fall 2023 Go With That Magazine issue. We are sharing Erica Faulhaber’s article here, and EMDRIA members can access all other articles and issues in the Go With That Magazine.
Resilience: The Intersection of Eating Disorders and EMDR
“Resilience is more than a buzzword circulating throughout the therapy community and among the general population. Resilience is a competency that can be learned and developed through treating trauma and in the context of eating disorder (ED) recovery. Resilience highlights strengths and capabilities in place of diagnoses or deficits. … Resilience is “a stable trajectory of healthy functioning after a highly adverse event” (Southwick et al., 2014, p.2).
Domains of Resilience
The domains of resilience have been situated throughout literature. According to various sources, the domains of resilience include affect and emotional regulation, cognitive flexibility, prosocial and adaptive behavior, and social support (Bonnano, 2005; Herman, 1998; Ivtzan et al., 2016; Shapiro, 2018; Ozbay et al., 2007; Southwick et al., 2016). All domains are specific to the competency of resilience and are no strangers to the psychological community as evidenced by various trauma treatment models offering their interpretation of components exemplifying the importance of integration. Resilience is not a final product, rather it is part of the process in the pursuit of recovery, including from trauma and ED. Qualitatively, EMDR and ED are ways individuals may lean to help heal trauma, one being more efficacious than the other. Defining the domains of resilience helps us to understand more.
Affect and emotional regulation involves the regulation of negative emotional expressions while embracing positive emotions and outlook after experiencing a traumatic event. Research suggests that embracing more positive emotions may temper both psychological trauma and social withdrawal. In EMDR, trainers teach clinicians to help clients identify a positive cognition to help them with reprocessing. In ED, individuals may struggle to identify emotions in their bodies, given the disconnect with the illness, and may also struggle with regulating distressing emotions. Emotional regulation is directly associated with a person’s values and beliefs. By experiencing emotional regulation, literature has noted the impact on overall psychological well-being.
Cognitive flexibility is how individuals can create fluidity in their cognitions instead of a more rigid mindset. This entails a person’s ability to use behavioral and psychological techniques to lessen and respond to negative external and internal stimuli. In ED and through experiencing trauma, the client’s ability to think more broadly and flexibly may be hampered, which is where EMDR can create an opportunity to broaden perspectives. EMDR is a modality that works on expanding cognitions through embracing the malleability of the brain’s neural networks and shifting narrow perspectives.
Prosocial and adaptive behavior is for the benefit of others, to move away from self, contributing to society’s overall well-being. In this domain, the importance is on people’s capability to mold and adjust behavior to meet the demands of a given stressor, which assists in the recovery process. In trauma and with ED, isolation can occur, separating one from the world, which limits people’s ability to interact with the creation around them. While working toward recovery from both ED and trauma, clinicians can encourage clients to modify behaviors toward gratitude, compassion, kindness, and generosity, which all further enhance prosocial and adaptive behavior.
Social support involves a complex construct of a system of people accessible to provide healthy interpersonal relationships and contribute to one’s material and psychological well-being. Social support is in the same vein of creating expansion, like previously discussed domains of resilience. With the treatment of both trauma and ED, social support involves building a strong recovery-oriented team, including both professional and personal supports. Social support can be assessed by understanding where the client is in terms of stages of change and their openness to receiving help. Literature shows that ED can wreak havoc on social supports in the process of recovery and is not limited to the individual suffering.”
This issue also includes the following articles:
- An AIP Approach to Disordered Eating by Cassie Krajewski, LCSW
- Internalized Sexual Shame in the Treatment of Eating Disorders by Lauren Kiser, PhD, and DaLene Forester, PhD
- Eating Disorders: What are EMDR Therapists Missing? by Samantha Sessamen, LMHC
If you are a therapist interested in the EMDR training, visit our EMDR Training & Education tab:
If you are EMDR trained:
- Learn more about EMDRIA membership
- Search for Continuing Education opportunities
- Check out the EMDRIA blog, Focal Point
If you are an EMDRIA Member: