Art Therapy and Bulimia

A Personal Perspective

Robin is a thirty year old woman who made an appointment because "I've tried everything and here I am 16 years bulimic and nothing works".

During our first session I provided Robin with a storyboard template, and asked her to draw an animation strip showing the sequence of a typical binge/purge episode. As we looked at it together, one of the things that stood out was the frame showing the aftermath of purging. Robin tearfully commented; "When I'm exhausted and depleted after I throw up, then I get to wash my face with a washcloth, turn on soft music and lie down and rest until I'm all better. It's like I get to be my own mother".

In subsequent sessions when we explored Robin's relationship with her own mother, It became clear that Robin's role in the family was to be the caretaker in both the physical and emotional sense. Her mother suffered from severe untreated depression throughout Robin's childhood and adolescence, and was often in bed for weeks at a time with the blinds drawn. Robin would feed her mother and attempt to cajole her into getting up. Robin's own need for nurturing take the form of eating binges followed by vomiting to avoid weight gain.

As Robin and I continued our therapeutic work, she began to create a series of clay sculptures that expressed both her longing for emotional sustenance, her anger at what her mother wasn't able to provide, and as as time went on, images of self-soothing that were not related to food. As she utilized the art psychotherapy process to work on her emotional issues, her bulimia gradually diminished, and she was able to forgive both her mother and herself. At her last session she drew an animation storyboard again-- this time reflecting the new and healthy forms of comfort she employs when feeling emotionally depleted or overwhelmed.

Previous art experience is not necessary.


Eating Disorders
Men & Weight Issues

Chemical Dependency

Alcohol Abuse
Drug Abuse

Mood Disorders


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