Body Image and Eating Disorders

Last week, Clinical Director Karin Lawson and Director of Outpatient Programming Melissa Spann were honored to present on eating disorders and body image at the Pershing-Turner Center Symposium. Karin and Melissa share, “we are really excited to be introducing an innovative model for body image recovery. Although it is linear in presentation, many of the phases are part of an ongoing process that includes relational dynamics as a significant factor in recovery. Those relationships evolve in the movement toward increased authentic connection.”

Body image struggles are common among our clients with eating disorders. Body image is a concrete object to focus one’s attention when the eating disorder and the world can feel so abstract. It is a metaphor for the self. It can also be a deterrent to shy away from other intense therapeutic topics. However, this is  not always a distraction. Many times it is a significant part of the therapeutic work.

Dr. Lawson and Dr. Spann delve into this topic, discussing the importance of the client being physically and psychologically ready to address body image work and the movement that occurs through stages of animosity, rejection, bargaining, tolerance, acceptance, appreciation, and ultimately, authentic connection with self and others.

Additionally, Karin and Melissa explore and challenge clinicians to reflect on their own relationships with their bodies as part of their professional and personal development; noting a clinician has to be willing to engage in self-reflection and increase self-awareness. “It can feel challenging to have your body be the object of a patient’s feelings like scrutiny, envy, hatred, etc. Looking back, I wish I would have more readily and more comfortably incorporated this. It’s so important to model to our patients that we aren’t afraid to talk about our bodies and that we aren’t afraid to hear their feelings about us and our bodies.” – Primary Therapist, Oliver-Pyatt Centers

If you are interested in this topic and want to learn more, please send an e-mail to, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with our upcoming talks and presentations. Stay tuned – this presentation is slated to be repeated in Washington, D.C. in the upcoming months.