According to statistics offered by Mirror-Mirror, approximately 4.7 million women and 1.5 million men will experience bulimia nervosa at any given time in the US and should consider a bulimia nervosa treatment plan. Like many eating disorders, bulimia nervosa tends to make people isolate themselves; it’s a lonely disorder that is characterised by feelings of guilt and shame about disordered eating patterns. Those who enter a bulimia recovery program have often spent so much time isolating themselves in an effort to conceal their behaviors that social interactions can be a challenge.
For this reason, many eating disorder treatment centers make sure that various styles of group therapy are included as integral parts of their treatment programme. In groups with peers, and family/close friend therapy, group therapy is highly beneficial for all clients involved. Let’s take a closer look at the ways group therapy can positively impact the eating disorder recovery experience:
Group therapy gives new perspectives from peers
Bulimia nervosa recovery involves gaining a new level of understanding the eating disorder as a pattern of distorted thoughts and actions, and not as a moral failing. However, some individuals are so close to their illness and so immersed in the symptoms that it is hard for them to understand how damaging it can be. Through group therapy during a bulimia treatment plan or when used as one of the available bulimia nervosa treatment options, individuals see the disorder and how it affects others.
This is important to a mindful understanding of the self. When a person with bulimia nervosa who has been unable to see how the disorder is affecting them suddenly sees how it’s affecting one of their peers, it can be eye-opening. This newfound understanding of how their disorder is impacting another can lead to acceptance of how it’s impacting themselves, and a breakthrough may occur.
Group therapy lets people know they are not alone
When people consider bulimia nervosa treatment options, they are often surprised to learn just how many other people are going through the exact same situation. Eating disorders are often deemed as “lonely disorders” because people who deal with the problem often take great strides to mask their disordered behaviors from everyone else. Through group therapy, individuals get to see that they are not the only person in the world who has the similar struggles that bulimia nervosa can bring.
Many eating disorder treatment centers report that their former clients cherished group therapy sessions the most highly of all therapeutic techniques. The bonding that they feel with their peers (and the therapists involved) provides a sense of support and solidarity in the face of a difficult disorder. In many cases, these bonds continue for months and years after residential treatment is completed, in the form of alumni groups and other support structures.
Group therapy encourages the development of interpersonal skills
An unfortunate result of many mental health disorders, including bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders, is difficulty with empathy, compassion, and social interactions. Group therapy as part of a bulimia nervosa treatment plan helps encourage the development and restoration of interpersonal skills. These skills can be vital after leaving treatment, in countless situations like returning to work or school, eating meals with friends and family, or even meeting new people without anxiety.
Establish ground rules of respect and consideration in group therapy sessions allows people in treatment to be vulnerable and honest about their emotions and their disorder. These listening and self-expression skills almost always prove vital to successful re-entry into a ‘normal’ daily life, free of bulimia nervosa. This, in turn, allows graduates of an eating disorder treatment programme to continue their recovery in the long term, building new social support systems and expressing themselves in a healthy manner.
If you need help with bulimia nervosa, don’t wait
The various levels of group therapy that take place during eating disorder treatment are highly advantageous to the recovery process for most individuals. Reach out to an eating disorder treatment centre if you’re struggling with an eating disorder. It might be intimidating, but you won’t regret it.
Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.
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