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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Reader Poll :: What if your therapist had an eating disorder?

December 1, 2010 50 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

In a recent act of significant courage, Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner came out of the proverbial closet. A psychologist who blogs about food, family, and culture at The Body and the Brood revealed both on her website and through a guest post on Blogger Body Calendar that she has suffered from an eating disorder herself. As Dr. Udall-Weiner admits, this was not an easy decision.

Coming forward about having suffered from an eating disorder or disordered eating is difficult for anyone, and I commend the many bloggers who have done so bravely on their websites or in other forums. {Some of these rock-stars include Christie, Katie, Dorry, and Kendra, among many others.}

But when it comes to psychologists, the stigma seems to run even deeper. Our field is one of professionals who, in most cases, tend to keep their personal lives very close their chests, and at times even lambast those who do not. As psychologists, we are both implicitly and explicitly reminded that self-disclosure can come at a very high cost.

This isn’t simply so that we can seem holier-than-thou and deny that we have real lives with real problems, but rather to allow us (and the patient him- or herself) to focus our energy and attention on the patient. A more traditional view of self-disclosure suggests that being conservative in this area protects boundaries in the therapeutic relationship and allows the patient to work through issues. Some also suggest that it’s not usually in service to the patient to self-disclose, and that it may be done more for the sake of therapist.

A more relational and feminist view of psychotherapy would suggest that mindful and appropriately timed self-disclosure can foster a good relationship between the patient and therapist. Some studies suggest that patients tend to view their therapists more positively following self-disclosure, though research is mixed here. The idea is that the therapist becomes a real person who is on a equal playing field with the patient. The patient may see the the therapist as more genuine, able to understand, and connected.

So what if you learned that your therapist had, in the past, had suffered from an eating disorder? Would you feel uncomfortable knowing that information? More connected? Worried that they might not be recovered enough to help you? More or less inclined to share your symptoms?

Please participate in the poll below. Because this issue is so complex, please also share your thoughts in the comments so that we can all learn from each other.

Other questions to consider:

If you are comfortable, would you want your therapist to tell you him- or herself?

Would your response change if the issue were different (e.g. Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, depression)?

Are there any other factors that might might make your opinion above different?

How much does a therapist’s ability to relate to your specific circumstance impact you (e,g. being married or divorced, being of same ethnic background, sharing religious beliefs)?

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50 Comments

  1. Christie @ Honoring Health
    4 years ago

    I am a coach which isn’t the same as a therapist but I do disclose myself to my clients. Of course, they may not know the nitty gritty details but I do disclose myself, not only on my personal blog, but in sessions as well. I only do this when I think it will help the client understand that I am not judging them for their actions which is common among those that have eating and self care issues. Most of my clients come into our working relationship knowing at least something about my history and will even ask me what I did in this or that case.

    Now, of course, my client base are not people who have full blown eating disorders, I specialize in women who primarily suffer from the diet/binge cycle so that may be different.

    One thing I can say about my own therapist is that she doesn’t really disclose anything about herself to me. And when we bumped into each other in the grocery store she felt completely uncomfortable when I introduced her to my husband as my therapist. It felt really awkward and I do wish she were a hair more open with me.
    Christie @ Honoring Health recently posted..I Wouldn’t Go Back

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      Thanks for offering the perspective of a coach. It’s interesting to learn the differences in “practice” between the fields, though of course there is a lot of overlap and individuals coaches, therapists, etc. choose different ways of practicing.

      Reply

  2. Michele @ Healthy Cultivations
    4 years ago

    I think that any disclosures tend to help the therapeutic relationship. Clients/patients tend to look toward the therapist for an example of how to handle difficult situations, learn healthy rather than self-destructive/harming coping skills, and more. Client knowledge that the therapist has suffered with and is successfully dealing with their issues is something that can provide hope and encouragement to someone still struggling.

    Clearly, the therapist should only disclose if the proper time arises when it seems like it would help. But I think a little disclosure can go a long way in helping the client open up more. Thinking your therapist “truly” understands from experience is a very big deal.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      I agree that especially in therapeutic situations where there is a strong relationship, the therapist has an opportunity to model healthy behavior. You make great points.

      Reply

  3. Nikki
    4 years ago

    I think experience is the best learning tool. Assuming that the therapist is, for the most part, over the eating disorder (although is that ever really possible?), I think that this person would have a wealth of information and empathy to offer their patient.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      As to “is that ever really possible”… there’s a blog post coming soon ;-)

      Reply

      • Nikki
        4 years ago

        Ooh, can’t wait!!

        Reply

  4. Megan @ ascension blog
    4 years ago

    I agree with Michele that it could be comforting for patients to know that their therapist has first-hand experience in living with and (hopefully) successfully overcoming an eating disorder. I think it’s really important and powerful for patients be able to see their therapists as normal people who can offer wisdom born of experience, rather than “perfect” people with only a text book understanding of emotional and psychological suffering.
    Megan @ ascension blog recently posted..Envy

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      I agree that one of the most powerful aspects of self-disclosure is putting the therapist and patient on an equal plane. Therapists are certainly not perfect, just like parents aren’t. I think that as patients we often have to come to that realization over time.

      Reply

  5. kell
    4 years ago

    I believe that a therapist who has had a personal experience with an eating disorder brings a unique passion for their patients recovery to the table. My therapist revealed her firsthand struggle with an eating disorder to me and not only did it make me feel more connected to her, it made me start to truely believe that I wasn’t alone and that recovery was possible. My experiences with the medical doctors who are treating me often leave me feeling like the “generic anorexic” – they’ve ‘seen it all before’ and seem to be speaking directly to my eating disorder and not to ME! My therapist is now a different story, after her revelation, I can see that she entered into this field because she overcame her struggles and has a true passion for helping others to do the same. I can feel that her treating me comes with a much bigger reward than just a paycheck – i feel like she is fighting for ME, like she is looking beyond my eating disorder surface and trudging deep inside to convince me that their is a beautiful, capable, and important person underneath. She also inspires me to move forward – i see her as a person who has gone through many of my same struggles and come out on the other side a successful, strong, and compassionate human being. She is not a victim of the eating disorder, she has used her experience to help make a positive contribution to the world. I see this and i feel comfortable trusting her, trusting that with her help, i too can make the most of ME.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      Wow, it sounds like you really have a wonderful therapist and a great connection with her. I am so glad you’ve found an ally and advocate, as well as someone you can trust.

      Reply

  6. Kate @ Walking in the Rain
    4 years ago

    I used to work in a substance abuse agency and the best counselors where recovered addicts. They could easily cut through the bs of clients, because the counselors had been there and could relate. I think the same can be true for professionals recovering from an eating disorder. Earlier this year I went to a therapist and she was upfront with saying she didn’t have eating issues. However, we didn’t mesh well for a variety of reasons and I stopped seeing her and choose someone else who did have a similar eating history as me. I can see where having a past eating disorder would help a professional be more empathetic and would help the client at the same time feel not so alone.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      I’ve heard from patients and mental health professionals alike that often the best counselors in substance abuse are those that have suffered themselves. I wonder if there is any research on that. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply

  7. sharlaelizabeth
    4 years ago

    This is not the type of information that I would consider to be risky to the therapist for disclosing. It might not be the right information for every client, but I find advice easier to take from someone who has been in a similar situation (even if I might not like it when I hear it). It’s difficult for me to speculate as I’ve never had an eating disorder/disordered eating, but I would rather see a therapist that I see as a person who has lived (and made their share of mistakes) rather than sort of infallible GP for my mind.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      I agree with your point that it might not be right for every client. I think that therapists and others who work with these individuals need to consider the unique needs of each person. Thanks for you input!

      Reply

  8. Dorry
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the shout out. :)

    This is a very interesting point. I say yes, that I’d be comfortable knowing that my therapist had an eating disorder and would feel comfortable if they disclosed that information to me. Of course that’s a simple answer and if the circumstances didn’t prove to be helping my recovery, I’d look for a better fit in a therapist…but that “fit” might have nothing to do with the therapist’s past with an eating disorder. Hmmm…I also believe that if someone is truly recovered from an eating disorder, they would most likely be able to connect and communicate with a patient on a level that might not otherwise be achieved…or achieved in a more text-book way. As all cases are different, it’s hard to say for sure!
    Dorry recently posted..15748

    Reply

  9. Emergefit
    4 years ago

    I believe athe paradigm has shifted in recent years and where therapists were once perceived to be in a capacity of leadership, such as employers and religious leaders, the evolution of how therapists work has minimized this. I have not seen one in decades, but have several clients who are therapists in varying fields. None of them strike me as holier-than-thou. In an odd sense, as their fitness trainer, I am somewhat their therapist (in a very light sense) and this exchange of rolls has made me a appreciate the human aspect of everyone else.
    Emergefit recently posted..Coloring Outside The Exercise Lines…

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      I very much agree with you about the paradigm shift and I think it’s a very good thing that therapists are no longer considered in a position of power – though in some cases and depending on the client’s frame of reference, they may still be. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply

  10. charlotte
    4 years ago

    I’m totally cool if my therapist had an ED in the PAST – I might even take her more seriously knowing that she knows of which she speaks. That said, I once had to quit working with a therapist when she kept asking me for tips on how I got so skinny. That one really threw me.
    charlotte recently posted..Walking During Your Run Fitness Hacks You Have to Try

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      WOW! That’s so wrong on so many levels….

      Reply

  11. Dolores Ayotte
    4 years ago

    Ashley…I vote yes too. Although I am not a therapist, I have found on my journey in overcoming depression the inspiration to write two “easy to read” self-help books based on my own learning experiences to better cope with life. Ever since I came out of the “closet” with my struggles, so many people have opened up to me about their own struggles with depression or their struggles with living with a person who suffers from it.

    It kind of reminds of the disadvantages and inadequacy of priests who have chosen to live celibate and childless lives giving marriage counseling or child rearing advice. Experience with a situation or a condition is a very good teaching tool. Opening up about these experiences does level out the playing field and more empathy and compassion may ensue resulting in a better therapeutic relationship.
    Dolores Ayotte recently posted..SENSITIVE — November 29- 2010 by Desiray

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      It is amazing how sharing our struggles seems to pave the way for others to acknowledge their own. I’d be interested in hearing more about your books.

      Reply

  12. Dana Udall-Weiner
    4 years ago

    Great discussion on this topic, Ashley. And thanks for referencing my post! I think people assume that, if a therapist brings up her own issues, the client will be subjected to endless rambling about the therapist; that the therapist will go on and on and overwhelm the client with detail. If I chose to tell a client about my history, I do so after much consideration and in an opportune moment. I typically go with a small, palatable piece of information, and then gauge client response. I am sensitive to the fact that sometimes a disclosure can feel like a burden to a client. In fact, I once stopped therapy because my therapist (in the first session!) told me all about her in-laws and family dynamics. It was not helpful and a total turn-off.

    Thanks for getting us thinking about this issue, Ashley!
    Dana Udall-Weiner recently posted..What if Exercise Doesn’t Pay Off as We Predict

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      You make a great point about not overwhelming the client with detail. The key here seems to be that it’s in service to the client and I believe that if that is kept at the forefront of our minds, there is much less risk for harming someone.

      Reply

  13. Katie @ Health for the Whole Self
    4 years ago

    Very interesting stuff! I personally lean toward the feminist perspective. I think that if the disclosure is timed and executed properly, it could be very beneficial to the patient; it could strengthen the relationship and help the patient feel more understood. I’m not speaking from experience here – my therapist has never disclosed anything about a history with an ED. But I have definitely found that reading the more personalized, memoir-style self-help books is more beneficial than reading the more stark, impersonal ones, so by the same logic I think I would feel comforted by knowing my therapist had faced similar struggles.

    I’m thrilled that you’ve brought up this topic and addressed it in such an eloquent way!
    Katie @ Health for the Whole Self recently posted..December’s Magic Word- Authenticity

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      Thanks Katie! I agree that memoirs tend to be really powerful due to the ability to relate to the author’s struggles. That’s a good comparison.

      Reply

  14. Sarah
    4 years ago

    When I had an eating disorder (anorexia), I was taken to a therapist by my parents (kicking and screaming, of course). I weighed 80 lbs at the time, and the psychiatrist weighed even less, I would venture to guess. She never told me she had an eating disorder, but after about 5 sessions, I couldn’t take it anymore. All I could think about was how thin and frail she was. After leaving her office for the last time, I actually set myself on the path to recovery all on my own. It took longer than it would have with therapy, but I think seeing how frail and unhealthy she looked actually HELPED me.

    However, I see this situation as very different from the one you describe. If a therapist were to share with me that they had an eating disorder in the past and they were treating me – but I could see that they seemed recovered…at the very least weight restored! – then I would be perfectly fine with it. In fact, I do think it could help, provided they can strike that delicate balance between empathy, sympathy and assistance. I think it could be easy for some psychiatrists to become an enabler if they have too much common ground with a patient, so I would definitely look for red flags in that regard…if I was clearheaded enough to look for red flags, that is! I know some people whose psychiatrists end up becoming too casual with their patients, and give them advice that I think is unprofessional.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing The Soul
      4 years ago

      I’m sorry to hear about your initial experience. I’m sure that was really difficult to cope with in the midst of a disorder. I’m glad you were able to garner your strength and end the relationship and help yourself. I very much agree with your advice of looking for red flags. Whenever something makes you feel uncomfortable in therapy, I think we should all take note.

      Reply

  15. Heather Whistler
    4 years ago

    Wow, Ashley — so interesting! I think the Twelve Steps helped me more than therapy because these programs are all about people with the same problem coming together and sharing experience, strength, and hope. When I was trying to overcome my bulimia and binge eating with therapy, I never really trusted my therapists. Either they didn’t REALLY understand my problem, or they were only in it for the money (or so I thought). I actually just wrote a post about this, and since you’re a therapist, I’d love to hear your opinion on it if you have a chance.
    Heather Whistler recently posted..Why Community Can Be More Healing Than Therapy

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      I’ll definitely check out your post. I’m really intrigued!

      Reply

  16. Rosie
    4 years ago

    I think that if I felt comfortable that my therapist was recovered enough from their eating disorder to counsel me, then it would be really beneficial to have their advice, because they had been through the same symptoms and feelings. I could feel really connected to them. My only concern is if they themselves weren’t healthy enough to be counseling me.
    Rosie recently posted..Eyes Bigger than the Stomach

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      Yes, I think it would be very important that the therapist had significant time in sustained recovery.

      Reply

  17. Wendy @ EatingDisorders411
    4 years ago

    When I was in an eating disorder support group as a patient many years ago, the group was run by two therapists, whom, I assume, were psychoanalytically trained. They refused to reveal ANY personal information. Any remotely personal question was met with a question in response, something like, “What would it mean to you if you had that information?” It got so bad that one time, one of the patients ran out of the room crying, right after screaming at the therapists about how they’re like robots and how they were treating us like they cared about us as much as they cared about the lint on their suit. Frankly, I agreed. The rest of the group was spent on the same subject – why was it so important to us to have a human being running the group?

    As a direct result of that experience, I decided I would become a therapist and I would never conduct myself like that with my clients. I got my MSW and a license and I opened my practice treating women with eating disorders. They all knew going into it that I had an eating disorder. Almost every single client I treated said either while they were in therapy or at some point afterward in a contact with me that the reason they were able to recover was because they knew I had made it through. Every single client I ever saw asked me specific questions like, “So was it like that for you too?” Or, “So how did you deal with this issue?” And then of course there were the comments, “Ooops, I can’t get away with that with you because you know all the tricks!”

    I believe there is a very specific mindset amongst people with eating disorders. It’s a way of thinking that isn’t like other people’s. Even if my clients didn’t speak about it, I always called them on it because I got the way they think. And again, almost every single one of them has commented about how helpful that was – not being able to hide or pull things over on me because I typically saw it coming a mile away.

    In my own recovery, I never dealt with a therapist who had a history of eating disorders. I wish I’d been able to find one, but I couldn’t. So I went to people I felt comfortable with. I will tell you though, when I was switching therapists about 10 years ago, I specifically looked for someone who is a lesbian because I am too and many of my issues at the time, in addition to the eating disorder symptoms, had to do with being gay. I already knew there were things my former therapist couldn’t understand because she wasn’t gay. So knowing that about my new therapist was really important to me.
    Wendy @ EatingDisorders411 recently posted..Nov 30- Picky Eaters Selective Eating Disorder

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      I can understand how frustrating that can be to want to feel that you are connecting to someone and feel push-back from them around that. It can be really challenging, particularly for individuals with EDs who often have trouble connecting. Then to make the attempt and feel like there is a rejection is really tough. Thank you so much for sharing your input. I think it’s so wonderful that you were able to learn more about therapist you wanted to be from your own experience.

      Reply

  18. Rose
    4 years ago

    Ashley this is a fascinating post and subject! thank you so much for brining this up. At one of the treatment centers that i went to for my eating disorder, most of the staff identifiied themselves as “recovered”. This was super helpful in this context because it was clear that they had recovered and were living really normal, cool lives, unlike the rest of us who were scared shitless to be living life. I also have to agree with Wendy above that there is a VERY SPECIFIC weird kind of mindset that people with eating disorders have that just is very difficult to explain or understand if you are on the outside.
    six months ago or so, when i got out of treatment, i would have said a resounding yes to this question.
    however, thinking about it now, and now that i actually ahve a therapist who i REALLY LIKE and work well with who does NOT have an ed history but who knows a heck of a lot about working with EDs, i’m not so sure how i would feel right now having a therapist who used to have an ED . i feel kind of like right now i might feel weird disclsoing things to them, as if if i were to say that i ate “only x amount of calories” today, then what if in the past they had had days where they ate “x-200 calories” ??? then would i not look “bad” at my eating disorder?
    perhaps it is just the way my brain is working today, and maybe on any other day this would not have occurred to me, but as of this moment, i don’t think i would want a therapist with an ED history, because i would feel competitive about it, although i never have in the past.
    Rose recently posted..How to come back from a slip

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      4 years ago

      Thanks for your honesty here, Rose. I think that you point out one of the big concerns about therapists disclosing a history of ED, which is that some patients might find themselves comparing themselves either in their eating disorder or their recovery to the therapist or spending time in their head thinking about the therapists’ past, whether the therapist might be triggered by them, etc. So for some patients, that would be a danger. As you say, I think it depends where the individual is at that moment. Great thoughts here!

      Reply

  19. Janet
    4 years ago

    The timing of this is uncanny!

    I’ve been seeing a homeopathic doctor for approximately eight weeks now. My eating disorders have come up as part of our whole-health discussions. As this is not our primary area of concern right now, my doctor recommended a book called, “Real World Recovery: Intuitive Food Program Curriculum” and suggested that she could work with me in the New Year. I said, “That would be nice.”

    I’m reading Portia de Rossi’s book right now, and I’m stunned at the similarities between her thought processes and mine. It’s frightening really; a shocking jolt of reality. It’s amazing how we perceive our own thoughts and behaviours as normal. Not until I stood outside of myself and witnessed another’s ugly battle with this disease did I understand that I was still struggling and in need of help.

    My point is that, as I’ve sat with this over the past week, I’ve wondered how someone who is not only fifteen years younger than me (for some reason that makes a difference), but who may not “get” what I’m going through, can help me.

    My first thought was to ask her outright if she’s suffered from an eating disorder at any time in her life the next time I see her.

    I think — on some level — that I would prefer if she had. If I had cancer or heart disease I wouldn’t require disclosure. But this is different. It demands an intimate understanding from my doctor on a very personal level that would give me greater confidence in knowing that she understands and can help.

    I’m not sure that it would even matter if she was still suffering. She has more training, knowledge, and experience in treating the disease than I do, and, I believe, could possibly offer more than someone who hasn’t experienced the disease first hand.

    Anyway, food for thought! Fascinating discussion. All of the comments have helped, especially Wendy’s, as I am gay, too, and that has had such an enormous impact on my life in ways that, at forty-nine, I’m just beginning to understand.

    Thanks for this very important discussion, Ashley.
    Janet recently posted..A Coaches Wisdom- Holding Fast to Lessons From a Teenage Life

    Reply

  20. Marsha @ Green Mountain at Fox Run
    4 years ago

    Thanks for this post, Ashley, and thanks to your readers for all their great comments/insight. This is a subject that i’ve been hearing discussed more and more among therapists, but it’s a good one for nutritionists, too. Many of us went into the field of nutrition in an attempt to heal our own relationships with food, me included. I disclose this when I speak to the women who come to Green Mountain and while I don’t know how all react as I do it in a group setting, I do think it helps many of our participants feel easier about opening up to me. That said, we have had very effective therapists and nutritionists on staff who haven’t had an eating disorder or ever struggled with weight and body image. Their effectiveness was dependent on their human warmth, I think, which allowed connection. So as you and your readers have said, so much depends on the individual, whether it be the therapist/nutritionist or the client. Great topic.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing The Soul
      4 years ago

      I want to reiterate what you said about therapists who have not had EDs or other issues that mirror those of their patients. While I do think that going through similar circumstances is one way to build empathy, I totally agree that it is not the only way. I work and have worked with many amazing clinicians who have not dealt with the same issues as their patients, and I would like to think that I am effective in working with people who have issues I have not dealt with personally as well. Thanks for making that point!
      Ashley @ Nourishing The Soul recently posted..Five for Friday – 3 December 2010

      Reply

  21. Amanda
    4 years ago

    My therapist recently told me that she is a vegetarian. While that does not equal an eating disordered past, it has opened up a new door to our communication. She can relate, to some degree, what I feel when people try to provide ‘extras’ so that there will be something that I can/will eat. Just yesterday, she made a comment that was along the same lines as I was talking, such as my mom making specific comments to make me aware of things that she has done to attempt to make things better for me – but comes off rather ‘gruffly,’ indicating that it was a hassle.

    Anyway, I think that for me, it has strengthened our connecting, making me more comfortable opening up in some situations. I can see, however, how hard this decision must be for the clinician.

    Reply

  22. Hope Despite Depression
    4 years ago

    When I saw on my blogroll the title of this post (which was obviously a while ago) I immediately wanted to respond to it – but of course time slips away especially with the holiday hassles and I’m just NOW commenting…

    I have been seeing my current therapist since I was 17 (well – on and off throughout the years) – and she has been open with me (I guess because we’ve known each other for so long – I’m now 35) – that I know she suffers from depression as well… not like she had in the past – but she still has her bouts… For comparison’s sake I had tried two other therapists throughout the years – one male and one other female one – and I always went back to my current therapist… why? Because she was the most open and honest and caring therapist out of the three. I tell her she is my “living angel on earth”… She KNOWS how bad depression can feel – and just knowing that she truly gets it helps me tremendously. The other therapists came across as “cold” and “uncaring”… granted I’m not saying all are like that – but people need to know that not all therapists are the same – if you’re not happy with who you’re are seeing there ARE other ones out there that you will “mesh” better with – and that’s so important … to find that “right one”…I feel that it will make or break your recovery – because if you don’t have confidence in your therapist you won’t trust them and won’t believe what they tell you.

    For me, I would much rather see someone who truly knows what I’m going through because then they can offer insight into what has helped them (if they so choose) AND they have the educational background to boot.

    I wish it wasn’t such a stigma – the idea for therapists to have to be so “closed off” from their patients in order to be able to help them… I agree you probably shouldn’t give your entire life story, but just telling a client (maybe after a certain amount of time – when it feels right I guess) that they can relate (I think) would make the client feel more at ease as well… it does for me anyway…

    For what it’s worth – that’s my two cents anyway!

    Thanks for bringing this up!

    Christine
    Hope Despite Depression recently posted..Anxiety and the Holidays

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  23. Nancy
    4 years ago

    When people go through traumatic experiences and heal from pain, one common response is to share what has been learned from that trauma in order to help others heal. I know that a large number of schools that offfer degrees in social work interview prospective students about what their relationship is with trauma and only accept students who are close to, and who understand, trauma. Frankly, there’s no such thing as “normal,” and I don’t want a therapist who comes from a stepford style, manicured, sanitized seemingly perfect life. If my therapist isn’t telling me about dysfunction in her life, it’s not because it doesn’t it, and I’d be delusional to believe that. She’s not telling me because it’s my time to talk, and if she feels it’s helpful for me to know in order to assist my healing, she shares tidbits.

    Reply

  24. Kat
    4 years ago

    I’ve been thinking about this since I saw it posted awhile back… and honestly, I don’t think it would impact me in any way. I know some people like to have these idealized views of their therapist… but to be honest things like that don’t bother me in the least. They don’t make me like the person more… I may have more respect for them if they admitted to it, other than that though?

    I think the only thing I have an issue with in a therapist is one that cries often – and by often I mean at least every other time I see them. When I was in IOP there was a therapist like that and it turned me off – I saw how one of the girls in the program manipulated her upon recognizing this.

    I want to make strong note that it does not bother me for a therapist to cry occasionally or show emotion in general. They’re human, I’m human. It happens… It iss hard for me though to handle one that does it a lot not because they’re in the wrong, but because I sometimes have problems with emotions and feelings.
    Kat recently posted..the journey of cleaning

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  25. Sia Jane
    3 years ago

    I am very much for an eating disordered recovered survivor working with and helping those who are currently struggling.
    I have been a patient and treated by a clearly eating disordered nurse, which was totally hopeless.
    BUT as for those who have survived the disorder, of course I would want that.
    When I was recovering all I wanted was to be understood.
    I have been blessed to be treated by two therapists who understand me, but sometimes I do wonder if, if they suffered they would “get me” more.
    I think the way forward is most certainly arming treatment teams with former sufferers.
    I believe this to be true for eating disorders and other mental health struggles.
    Defining “well” has its complexities but I don’t see why this cannot be measured.
    I have found that with the first therapist I saw, her disclosure of her life, children etc was something she felt fully okay with and my current therapist doesn’t disclose anything like that.
    And yet, the factor that links me to them both, is a shared interest in, just life really.
    Books, films, clothes…
    A connection that means I have a dialogue with them other than just my therapy.
    Aspects in common that help facilitate some of the difficult work.

    So YES I believe stigma needs breaking and we need to be working towards allowing former sufferers to work in the field without feeling outcast.

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  26. Emma
    3 years ago

    While I agree that it is very important to be understood by your therapist, it is definitely important for a therapist who has suffered with an ED in the past to gauge whether it is appropriate to disclose that information to each client on an individual basis. For me, I’m currently in the process of recovering from my ED, and my therapist did tell me that though she never had an eating disorder, she did have periods of disordered eating in her life. I admit that my ED’s mind is very competitive and was secretly glad that I suffer “more” than she did. My mind w/o ED would like the stronger connection, but regardless, I am lucky to have a therapist who I feel understands my every word, even having not had a full blown ED herself.

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  27. Beth
    3 years ago

    A therapist I had in the past did, in fact, have an eating disorder in her youth. She gave a presentation at a recovery group at a local hospital where I was at an outpatient program at the time; I actually decided when she gave that speech that I really would love her as a therapist. Something about her ability to truth-tell in a positive manner struck me and I didn’t know why. Perhaps I had a desire to form a connection with a therapist that I could trust on an implicit level.

    I think the boundary issue is an important one to think about with patients, but an issue that shouldn’t necessarily be an all or nothing rule, or even a kind of rule that applies the same to all patients. For example, I am a person with very a desire for very strong boundaries to the point where I alienate myself away from other people and also therapeutic relationships. Knowing my therapist had overcome an eating disorder gave me a sort of subconscious connection to her that wasn’t scary; this connection made me able to admire her and trust her in a way that I wasn’t able to do with any previous therapists. In a way, she gave disclosure through this speech without choosing to do so directly to me as individual (I wasn’t seeking therapy from her until about 4 months later), but a few times over the two years I saw her, she chose to disclose healthy coping mechanisms or choices she faced in her recovery. I never felt uncomfortable with these disclosures, and she always asked if she could share something about her recovery before she did so.

    Of course, like I said, I think it depends on the patient, and it depends on the therapist, too. The therapist has to keep in mind their own boundary needs, and what would be best for the relationship with the patient. In clinical education though, usually the premise is selective/appropriate disclosure–the idea that when used correctly and timed well, disclosures can be a very useful and rewarding tool for both therapist and patient.

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  28. Jo
    3 years ago

    My therapist was CURRENTLY struggling with compulsive eating during our times of counselling. She still was able to see straight through to what wounds were causing mine, and was invaluable in my process.

    Reply

  29. Meredith Creek
    3 years ago

    Thanks for this. I was just asking other therapists about this over the weekend.

    As a new counselor who is recovered from an ED, I have been doing the “Do I treat EDs” debate in my head. When I was sick, I wanted nothing more than to help others with EDs. But as we all know, it was probably more of a way to say, “You get better, I will stay sick.” I felt it was my calling from an early age because it was one thing I KNEW like the back of my hand.Today, I want to assure that if I make a disclosure about having recovered from an 18-year battle with ED that the client will not immediately start questioning my short height and natural body size thinking I am still active in my ED. I am fully recovered and am quite proud of that fact. Now I am able to read the research and discuss things from a professional perspective… I find that I get emails from old friends or friends of friends anyway and they are wanting me to mentor them as they go through the beginning stages of their own journey. My own therapist never had an ED and she is amazing!!! I give her much credit for leading me to my successes, although I know that I had to be the one to actually do all of the hard work. For me, having a therapist who had recovered worked against me because of her approach to EDs and her strong personality moreso than the fact that she had been there too.

    So, for the first time next Saturday I will see a client who has an ED. I did disclose that I had struggled and recovered because it was apparent through our conversations that she had either seen that on my blog somewhere or just made an assumption. She still chose to schedule and even though I work with clients who have other disorders, EDs are the area I feel most confident in treating. We shall see!

    Oh and just another thing, having worked in the media for so long, I had/have a public platform and have used it at times to advocate for EDs. This is one of the main reasons I disclose my history because I would hate for a client to see it somewhere else and then feel like I deceived them. Make sense?

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  30. Jodie Gale
    6 months ago

    I have recovered from an eating disorder and disclose this freely throughout my blogs and early on in the session. Client feedback is that it has been the determining reason for choosing me as a therapist, that it provides them hope, and they felt a deep connection because I ‘know’ what it is like to suffer.

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