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Schema Therapy for Eating Disorders: Experiential Methods for Enhancing Motivation and Forming an Authentic Relationship

by Susan Simpson and Robert Brockman

Workshop Abstract: 

High levels of psychiatric comorbidity amongst eating disorder sufferers is associated with reduced effectiveness and higher dropout, even in response to gold-standard treatment protocols.  In ‘real-world’ clinical settings, we often encounter eating disorder presentations which don’t fit into our standard protocols, and patients who do not engage and/or respond to the treatments we offer.  Indeed, it is well recognized that the treatment of eating disorders can be fraught with complexity, and that a proportion of sufferers develop a picture characterized by chronicity and ego-syntonicity (i.e. “my Anorexia defines who I am”). The Schema Therapy (ST) mode model appears to be well suited to the eating disordered population, particularly those with complex problems, rigid personality traits & interpersonal difficulties. This workshop will explore motivational issues that arise in the treatment of eating disorders and the way in which coping mode 'agendas' can hijack therapeutic progress.  Participants will have the opportunity to explore ways in which client and therapist maladaptive modes can lead to motivational  'stuck points' and disjunctions in the therapeutic relationship. In particular, the workshop will focus on the role of empathic confrontation and chair work techniques for bypassing coping modes that block therapeutic connection. In addition, we will explore methods for forging a connection with the Vulnerable Child mode as a means of enhancing authentic connection with self and other.

Learning Objectives 

Participants will have the opportunity to:

1/ Recognise and identify eating disorder coping modes that block therapeutic connection with their own clients

2/ Recognise countertransference reactions linked to eating disorder coping modes 

3/ Recognise ways in which therapist coping modes can lead to therapeutic 'blind spots' and block authentic  connection

4/ Practice empathic confrontation to bypass eating disorder coping modes

5/ Practice chair work to enhance motivation in eating disorders

6/ Practice experiential techniques for connecting with the 'missing' Vulnerable Child mode

About the presenter:

Susan Simpson:

Susan Simpson,is a Clinical Psychologist and Schema Therapy trainer/supervisor, with a specialist interest in eating disorders and complex trauma. She has held several clinical and academic positions and is director of Schema Therapy Scotland, providing training and accreditation in schema therapy across Scotland and northern England. She has 20 years of experience working with eating disorders. She currently works with severe and enduring eating disorders at an NHS-inpatient eating disorders unit, and is adjunct lecturer at the University of South Australia. She is co-leading an international research group investigating the effectiveness of group Schema Therapy for eating disorders. She has published several research papers on the schema therapy model applied to arange of clinical populations, and has presented workshops at national and international conferences

Robert Brockman:

Robert Brockman is a Clinical Psychologist and senior research fellow at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education,Australian Catholic University. He is alsoprinciple Clinical Psychologist atSchema Therapy Sydney,a Sydneybased psychology clinicfocused on the practice and dissemination of schema therapy.His clinical practice and research has largely focused on the applicability of schema therapy to novel treatment populations (e.g. Eating Disorders, GAD, Psychotic Symptoms), and the integration of 3rd Wave Therapy techniques into Schema Therapy practice

Why Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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