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Is Group Therapy Really Helpful For Eating Disorder Sufferers

Dec 1, 2007
Group therapy for eating disorders could be helpful for some patients but can also be very controversial for others.This article will serve as an overview and summary of the various issues involving group therapy in the treatment of eating disorders.

Why group therapy can be helpful? Group therapy can be very good for the patient education on important topics that may not be addressed elsewhere, such as nutrition, medical consequences of laxative abuse, or assertiveness techniques.

Educating patients in groups saves individual therapy time for more personalized and deeper issues. Group members also educate each other from their varied experiences in identifying and solving problems.

If you look on this issue from another point of view you can see that when group members start educating each other they can also teach each other not only things that may help them to fight their eating disorder but also the tips and tricks how to be a better anorexic-bulimic and more sneaky.

By sharing with and listening to others, patients learn that they are not alone in their suffering, their feelings and their experience of having an eating disorder. It can enhance a person's self-esteem just to realize that she is neither crazy nor alone.

But from the other side group therapy provides sufferers with a lot of friends who are also anorexic or bulimic. They get to understand each other very well and develop a team spirit attitude. This means if they get better, they will need to leave the group and stay on their own. Often they don't want to leave their friends so they stay the same.

All people benefit from being accepted and cared about, even if they need to make changes. Eating disordered patients often feel or have been rejected by their families and others, and the only support system they feel they can count on is the therapy group.

But it also makes the sufferers depended on being in the group. They feel all right while they are in the group but loose all sense of self-control when they have to go back home.

Often patients have lost or never acquired the necessary trust or interpersonal skills to develop quality relationships. With the help of other group members, patients can learn what their feelings are and how to communicate them. Patients who otherwise have a hard time forming relationships can eventually learn to share, get close, trust, love, and be loved from the group.

But on the other hand by being close to each other patients get too many negative ideas from each other. If a young woman has never heard of drinking ipecac to induce vomiting and learns this technique in group therapy, she may try the technique out herself, leaving the group leader or member feeling responsible.

Often patients deliberately get worse or engage in more symptoms just to get extra attention from each other or the therapist. This kind of competition always exists in eating disorder groups but on many different levels. Sometimes it can get out of control and cause a lot of harm to some members of the group, the most venerable ones.

Eating disorder groups for some people can be the only place where they are understood and accepted but it can become a damaging experience, where members complain that recovery is impossible and there is no hope.

It is destructive for the rest of the sufferers if a member is telling a lot of horrible things she is doing or can not stop doing.

This can have a tendency to put ideas into the subconscious minds of other members and is exactly what is not needed, and is not the least bit helpful to the other sufferers.

To conclude, eating disorder groups can give some positive impact on a sufferer but it can also be quite harmful and unacceptable for many people.
The main point of all eating disorder therapy is to make a sufferer become independent and a fully functional individual.

This means the person should be free from any kind of dependency whatsoever, as dependency is what we are trying to get rid of in the first place:unfortunately group therapy does not offer this option.

For this reason I believe a home based treatment maybe a better option for eating disorder sufferers compare to other options, as home based is free from negative destructive inpute from other sufferers.
About the Author
Dr Irina Webster MD is the Director of Women Health Issues Program which covers different areas of Women Health. She is a recognised athority in the eating disorders area. She is an author of many books and a public speaker.
learn more about eating disorders at http://www.mom-please-help.com
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