With the predominance of unrealistic media images and messages in our society, art therapy is the ideal approach in promoting and building healthy body image, and treating eating disorders in adolescent girls. Throughout this paper, we will explore how art therapy can be utilized with these adolescents.
Art Therapy: The Ideal Treatment for Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders
Due to these unrealistic images and ideals during this impressionable developmental stage, it is not surprising that adolescent girls make up 95% of individuals who suffer from eating disorders (ANAD, 2013). Clearly, media images and messages greatly contribute to the development of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa (Edwards, 2008, Maclagan, 1998). Dokter describes an eating disorder as, “a reflection of a person’s degree of unhappiness with themselves” (1995, p.208). Mitchell adds that eating disorders are a “disturbance of delusional proportions in the body image and body concept” (Brooke,2008,p.15). Eating disorders include: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating, and other non-specified eating disorders. It is crucial for individuals with eating disorders to seek treatment due to the fact that it is life threatening. Of all mental disorders, eating disorders bear the highest mortality rates (ANAD,2013).
Art Therapy provides the ideal treatment approach for an adolescent who suffers from body dissatisfaction and/or eating disorders. Art therapy advocates self-awareness, recognition and the ability to understand one’s behavior, thoughts and actions (Doktor, 1995). This unique psychotherapeutic treatment offers a safe place for expression and a means to thoroughly understand the psychological concerns at hand. There are many advantages in utilizing Art Therapy to help an adolescent with body image issues or an eating disorder. These benefits include a non-verbal and verbal approach, a controlled and safe environment, a challenging process for self-improvement, and a multimodal approach.
Art Therapy offers a different means of communication. According to Kaslow and Echer, individuals with body dissatisfaction receive the most successful treatment when both non-verbal and verbal psychotherapy approaches are utilized (1988). Art therapy is extraordinarily rich in this aspect as the art materials provide a non-verbal means of expression, while the verbal approach is exercised during the discussion of the art activity and the reflection of the art-making process. Wolf explains,
Since a primary vehicle of communication for anorexics is their body it was thought that a model of therapy that combined both verbal and non-verbal approaches was essential in helping these individuals to develop a more realistic, positive, and integrated sense of their bodies (Brooke, 2008, p. 16).
This approach combines words with movement--- cognition to physicality.
Art therapy offers an environment where the individual is in control. This is especially important for...