woman suffering from anorexia

Using Experiential Therapy to Treat Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders are serious illnesses that involve extreme preoccupation about food and weight issues. Some examples of eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating and purge-eating.

People suffering from eating disorders experience severe disturbances in their eating habits, which can lead to poor physical, emotional, and psychological health. When left untreated, eating disorders may lead to many health complications such as heart failure, damage to the liver and kidney, depression and thoughts of suicide.

Fortunately, there are treatment centers that help people with eating disorders cope with their condition. People with eating disorders are helped by receiving in-patient or out-patient care. Treatment centers also provide experiential therapy, or the use of expressive tools and activities to address subconscious or hidden issues that a client may find difficult to discuss during cognitive or behavioral therapy.

Experiential therapy helps a client develop self-awareness, letting them tap into both positive and negative emotions, thoughts and desires.

Below are some experiential techniques that are used in the treatment of eating disorders.

Art Therapy

Art therapy can be used as an alternative therapeutic technique when a client feels uncomfortable in talking about past experiences, feelings or uncertainties. It can be an effective communication tool to gather information about the client, access their thoughts and emotions and reconcile conflict. Art therapy techniques include painting, sketching, sculpting or scrapbooking.

Art therapy provides a creative outlet that allows clients to find enjoyment and relaxation by creating art. Clients are guided by an art therapist to process and reflect on their art work to gain more insight about the clients’ condition. Art therapy also helps clients develop social skills, improve self-esteem and reduce anxiety.

woman eating junkfood

Dance or Movement Therapy

Dance therapy uses movement as a form of nonverbal expression of a person’s thoughts and feelings. Dance therapy can be a helpful tool in helping clients cope with eating disorders to express painful emotions through movement or dance.

It helps clients develop self-awareness and re-establish a healthy connection to their body. Clients are guided to express themselves physically and later on put their emotions into words. The dance therapist uses the client’s body language, emotional expressions, and non-verbal cues to develop therapeutic interventions specific to the client’s needs.


Psychodrama is a group therapeutic technique that involves role-playing to draw out a person’s repressed thoughts and emotions. One person is selected as the “protagonist” to represent the main issue or theme of the act. The other group members will either play roles significant to the theme or be a part of the audience. Psychodrama techniques include role reversal, mirroring, doubling, or soliloquy. Psychodrama helps clients make connections between food and their feelings and past experiences and express their feelings in a safe, supportive environment.

The goal of experiential therapeutic techniques is to provide clients a more comfortable method in communicating their feelings and ideas with the guidance of a therapist. This is beneficial to clients suffering from eating disorders as they often have trouble in communicating how they think and feel through traditional methods of treatment. Experiential therapy allows a client to connect to one’s self and improve self-expression through other means during the process of recovery.

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