Case Study

Case Study

High-Stakes Therapy

By Sandra Wartski

September/October 2016

Any therapist who has worked with eating disorders (EDs) knows not only that treatment can be a rocky journey, but that sometimes the stakes can be a matter of life or death. For the most part, clients with EDs are ambivalent at best about recovery, making the process even more tortuous and challenging. This is especially true with children and adolescents, whose development can be frozen by their struggles with the illness, their thought processes seriously distorted by the neurobiological effects of severe weight loss. So, as a specialist in EDs, I receive referrals from pediatricians with a mix of emotions: pleased when someone has caught symptoms early, scared about the lethal potential of this illness, impatient to get the adolescent brain and body back on track, empathic toward panic-stricken parents overwhelmed by the intensity with which this illness takes hold, and frustrated by the way our society and its seductive ideals of physical perfection can contribute so perniciously to this condition. While I know that recovery is possible, I also know that the treatment journey can be unpredictable, scary, and slow.

Getting Started

Ashley’s parents began speaking before they’d even sat down in my office. “She doesn’t want to eat anymore, and we don’t know what to do,” said her mother, Judy. “She’s wasting away before our eyes, and her doctor agrees.” Ashley’s father, Frank, added, “She doesn’t even want to drink water in case it…

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1 Comment

Monday, December 26, 2016 4:01:20 AM | posted by john