Finding Your Voice through Creativity The Art and Journaling Workbook for Disordered Eating – and interview with Mindy Jacobson-Levy and Maureen Foy-Tornay
As art therapists who specialize in the treatment of Eating Disorders, you developed a book that encourages the use of words and art. Can you explain why you chose to combine these two forms of expression?
When we have intense emotions, for example happiness, sadness, anger, rage, guilt, and shame, we initially experience these feeling in our bodies (viscerally). While words help us to understand and share our feelings with others, we don’t always have words at our disposal. Individuals who struggle with disordered eating are often disconnected from their feelings, at least initially. The use of unhealthy behaviors may serve as a shield from distressing experiences and feelings, providing a temporary shelter from self-awareness.
Our book invites
the reader to safely explore the barriers that interfere with recovery through a combination of art and journaling. Our intention was that the pages of the book would literally serve as a canvas for thoughts and feelings “spoken” primarily through images, and then elaborated upon through structured writing. Words are a common means of bridging communication with others (family, friends, therapists), as well as the self, making the workbook a structured venue for self-exploration. Journaling with art followed by words, also helps to contain the overwhelming feelings that make their debut through colors, lines, and shapes.
That’s it in a nutshell!
An example of one of your exercises is “The Door to the Inner Self.” It reads –
Create a door to represent the entrance to your inner self, where your feelings “live.” Consider details such as: what materials the door would be made of (e.g. wood, metal or bamboo), whether it has windows, peepholes, or locks, and what color(s) it might be. Add whatever you believe is important until it feels complete.
What kind of feedback have you gotten on some of your exercises?
Since Gurze published our book in 2010, we have received feedback from all over the world! Many individuals have shared their personal journeys with us, thanking us for providing them with a safe space to take risks with their thoughts and feelings. The exercises have given them the opportunity to challenge unhealthy behaviors creatively, with less fear and shame. For example, one individual “was surprised that her “simple door drawing revealed so much about how untrusting she was of others. The steel door with multiple locks reflected serious trauma in her past, and helped her to begin sharing this with her therapist.”
Similarly, clinicians who are non-art therapists as well as art therapists have emailed us regarding their use of the workbook in private practice. “The value of each client having a personal copy to work is a catalyst for risk-taking and serves as a personal diary,” wrote a clinician from Australia. Similarly eating disorder treatment centers are integrating our workbook into their programs (residential, partial, and intensive outpatient).
We recently learned that individuals are creating online support groups for working on the tasks in our book, not only those diagnosed with an eating disorder but those looking for personal growth! We are honored to find people adding our book to their core list of “must have” self help books!
How did you develop the titles and sequence of your chapters, starting with Chapter 1, “Let’s Be Selfish for a Minute,” and ending with Chapter 11, “Creating a New Path?”
The sequence of chapter themes evolved directly from the therapy process that occurs in our work with clients. The initial relationship of course is with the self, and the taking of baby steps into one’s internal world is the starting point. Providing permission to focus on oneself opens the first door towards identifying what needs to happen in the therapy – and the same goes for our workbook. As one moves through the book, the progression of themes ranges from self-exploration, to one’s relationship with others and then with the greater world. It’s an opportunity to discover one’s uniqueness in a variety of ways – through art, journaling, and the sharing of one’s responses with others. The path is progressive, with one task building on the insights gained from prior tasks.
For example once an individual recognizes areas of one’s life that cause stress, decisions are made as to how this might be approached. The major players are explored (such as family members, jobs, and even past hurts), and goals are set in order to make changes. With each shift behaviorally, strengths develop, and ultimately there is transformation.
Please share how the use of art can encourage the process of healing and recovery from an Eating Disorder.
Creating art is fun. What better way to encourage someone who may be very wary about approaching uncomfortable feelings, behaviors and situations than through a playful medium? Individuals begin to develop a relationship with the self through the manipulation of the art media. From the moment the crayon meets the paper, a vivid narrative emerges and one begins telling the story of their life. This record is a portable message with a depth of layered meanings that can be accessed by a client in therapy, with family members and with other supports. The secrets, shame, and hidden issues related to one’s eating disorder reside within artwork and the best part, is that there’s absolutely no “wrong way” to make art. Stick figures are fine, scribbles are great, and anything thing else that is written, collaged, or drawn potentially moves one forward in the recovery process. Art heals, both in the making and then the imparting of the narrative nonverbally and verbally.
Your book offers a unique, gentle and straightforward approach to the challenges of self-knowledge and recovery. What would you like people to know about your workbook?
Our workbook is truly an invitation to self-explore by engaging in creative experiences that are approachable. As it’s a self-guided workbook, the revelation of feelings occurs in a paced manner and one feels “in control.” This creates a nice balance to then delve into the origins of one’s disordered eating, make an inroad to problem solving, and to set recovery in motion. Our book is a safe, contained space that inspires participation and ownership of thoughts and emotions that perhaps have been under the radar for a very long time…perhaps too long!
You can purchase this book by clicking on the link below –