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Considering Therapy with IPA? Here's what to expect...

Sep 09, 2021
So, you are considering signing up for the ‘course plus online therapy package’ but you are new to therapy and have no idea what to expect.
 
In this blog post, I aim to ease some of the apprehension commonly experienced before the process of therapy begins, by explaining what you can expect.
 
Grab a cup of something hot and take your time to read through this document. Before you make the decision to sign up, really consider if therapy is something that you feel is right for you and reflect on whether you feel if it could benefit you on your journey to healing your relationship with your body and food.
 


What is body image therapy?

Body image therapy involves talking to a trained mental health professional about your thoughts, feelings and behaviours surrounding your relationship with your body and food. It is most suited for folks who experience dissatisfaction with their body image. Body Image Dissatisfaction (B.I.D) is sadly a very common occurrence and has become very normalised - it is estimated that up to 95% of folks who identify as female have felt shame about an aspect of their appearance.
 B.I.D can be defined as a negative attitude towards your physical appearance. It is the perceived discrepancy between your actual body versus your ‘ideal’ body image.
 
 

If you are considering therapy for B.I.D, it may be for some of the reasons below..

  • You experience anxiety related to your appearance
  • You are spending less time with loved ones because of body image concerns
  • You spend a long time trying to "perfect" your appearance
  • You try various diets to try to lose weight to fit the "ideal" body shape
  • You have forbidden foods. Sometimes, you binge on them and then feel a sense of guilt or shame
  • You say no to new opportunities because of your body - job interviews, holidays, dating, etc.
  • You are missing out on the joy of eating
  • You engage in punitive exercise as a way to manage your weight or "make up" for the food you've eaten
  • You feel that your life is on hold until you lose a certain amount of weight
  • Your friends or family make comments about your weight/appearance
  • You have experienced weight stigma in the past
  • You experienced early trauma or a significant life event which has impacted your relationship with your body/food

 

Therapy for B.I.D will provide you with a safe space to:

  • Talk to a trained professional who can objectively think about what is going on for you and who plays no other role in your life
  • Support you in exploring and making sense of your past and current experiences
  • Help you unravel and solve complicated feelings, or find ways to live alongside them
  • Understand how diet culture and the expectations placed on you by either yourself or others are actively contributing towards your mental health
  • Explore how to implement boundaries with friends and family around diet and body talk
  • Trial out behavioural experiments that provide you with alternative templates of reference
  • Explore your earlier life experiences and key familial relationships to better understand your relational patterns
  • Help you recognise unhelpful patterns in the way you think, feel and behave and find alternative ways to reframe them

 

We exclusively offer online therapy. How does that work? 

We exclusively offer online therapy, because it is accessible for everyone. Regardless of
where you live or how you live, you deserve access to good therapy. By opting for therapy online, you can talk about the tough stuff from the comfort of your own home.​
 
The software package that your therapist will use for online therapy is called Zoom. Zoom is used as it is reliable, accessible and adheres to strict privacy and confidentiality guidelines. If you don’t have Zoom downloaded already you can do so by visiting this link.
 
Your therapist will send you a Zoom link and meeting password via email on the day of each of your appointments. At the time of your appointment, just simply click the link, enter the password and your therapist will be waiting for you in the virtual meeting room.
 
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of therapy online, Psychology Today have produced an article which explains this further.
 
 

Dr. Sara's Experience:

 Sara has been working therapeutically with clients for the past 11 years and, therefore, has lots of experience in working with a variety of client presentations. More specifically, Sara has engaged in numerous therapy roles that addressed the issues typically associated with B.I.D, these issues include (but are not limited to): disordered eating, social anxiety, addiction and depression.
 
In addition to her core training as a Psychologist, Sara is a qualified and certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor and Health At Every Size (HAES) aligned practitioner.
 
The principles of Intuitive Eating and HAES are embedded within her core therapeutic interventions and help bridge the gap between mainstream psychology and the anti-diet/body image dissatisfaction movement.

 

“We are hard wired for connection. Connection is why we’re here: it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Really seen”

This quote from Brené Brown is an example of the relational framework that our overall approach to therapy sits within.

Relational therapy places emphasis on the importance of human connection and it does so by creating space to identify and get curious about your unique relational patterns. It may be that your current ways of relating are either enhancing or hindering your ability to connect with others and sustain fulfilling relationships. As a means of understanding this idea further, you may like to use the space to explore the dynamics held between you and some of the key relationships that you hold in your life.

What the relational approach also does well is that it places the therapeutic relationship at the forefront. Time and time again, research shows that the strength of the therapeutic relationship remains the number one consistent key predictor of good therapeutic outcomes.

Alongside the overarching relational approach to therapy, the two psychological models your therapist at the Intuitive Psychology Academy (IPA) will practice within are Psychodynamic Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
 

Psychodynamic Therapy 

Psychodynamic Therapy is a model of talking therapy which supports you to unravel, understand and be curious about your past experiences and core emotions by creating space to bring unconscious processes into consciousness.
 
You may have suppressed difficult emotions and early experiences by developing automatic, protective psychological defences. Maybe you are seeking therapy now as these protective mechanisms might no longer be serving you or possibly, they are causing you more harm than good.
 
This therapy model often requires you to dig deep and, with the support of your therapist, analyse your past suppressed experiences as a means of understanding how and why you feel the way you do today.
 
Psychodynamic therapy involves hard yet rewarding work. Many studies have shown this method to be particularly helpful in raising your insight and awareness, which will be extremely beneficial when working through your body image concerns and understanding why and how they have become so firmly established.
 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an active therapy model that is based on the interplay between our cognitions, emotions, physiological reactions and our behaviours.
 
It is more proactive than other methods of therapy and is typically goal-orientated, where folks are encouraged to confront and challenge the behaviours that have been implemented as a means of self-regulating their current emotional well-being. For example, if you are experiencing emotions and bodily sensations of anxiety due to your excessive thoughts regarding the dislike of your body then you may find that you are engaging in behaviours such as tracking your food, binging/restricting food or avoiding meeting friends as a means of attempting to regulate this emotional state of anxiety. “If I skip breakfast or avoid the party then I can control how others perceive my body and I will feel less anxious”.
 
However, persistent and continuous engagement in these types of cognitions, emotions and behaviours can become counter-productive and actively contribute towards the maintenance of the cycle, making you feel stuck and exhausted.
 
Through the identification of such behaviours you can begin to provide yourself gentle exposure to behavioural experiments that will actively provide you with alternative templates to managing difficult emotions.
 
Sara has witnessed first-hand and time and time again the benefits of using this method of therapy. CBT is particularly useful when working alongside clients who are struggling with their body image and the CBT framework can be adapted to include interventions that specifically focus on Body Image Dissatisfaction.
 
 

What should I expect from the pre-therapy consultation?

Once you have made the leap and made the decision to sign up and pay for the ‘course plus online-therapy package’ you will be emailed by a member of the IPA team to arrange the initial 30-minute consultation call with your therapist.
 
The most ideal time for the consultation session to happen is when you are approximately half-way through completing and exploring the ‘Debunking Diet Culture’ course. This is so we can get a clearer idea of what is surfacing for you and establish more specifically what you would like to work on.
 
Once the date and time of the call has been agreed (and in advance of the consultation session), you will be sent three therapy administration forms for you to read over, sign and return before the consultation begins.
 
You will have a chance to ask any questions during the consultation regarding the therapy documents (so only sign if you are completely happy with the content and the
therapeutic terms outlined).
 
The forms will be kept in confidence and include:
- Contact & Emergency Information Document
- Therapeutic Contract
- GDPR document
 
The purpose of the consultation call is to review your progress with the ‘Debunking Diet Culture’ course and to help establish how you will make best use of the therapy package sessions going forward.
 
The dates and time of the six therapy sessions will be agreed upon during the consultation session and they will commence once the ‘Debunking Diet Culture’ course has been completed.
 
 

What to expect from my first therapy session? 

By the time you get to your first session of therapy, you will have completed the ‘Debunking Diet Culture’ course. Therefore, the aim of your first therapy session is for your therapist to get to know you and your current situation a bit better and for them to learn, in depth, about how you found the course, what came up for you and what areas in particular you would like to use the therapeutic space for.
 
In order to best support you, your therapist might ask you a question such as:
“After the sixth and final session of therapy, how will you know if the IPA package of support has helped; what would be different for you?”. The answer to this might include differences in how you feel, think, or behave. It might be more centred around your relationship with food, your body, your family, your partner, your job (or potentially all of the above!).
 
From the information gathered, you and your therapist will put together a treatment plan of action. Your therapist will feedback to you what their initial reflections are about your current presenting concerns and how they think therapy could benefit you. Before your first session finishes, you’ll have the opportunity to ask your therapist questions that you may have about the therapeutic process.
 
 

What happens next?

Before the first session ends, you and your therapist will agree on your therapy goals and an initial plan of treatment. Typically, we will meet on a regular weekly basis, at the same time each week to allow the therapy treatment plan to unfold in a contained and consistent way. However, engaging in weekly therapy may not be one of your desired goals. You may wish to spread the six sessions of support out over a longer period of time. The arrangement of sessions will be agreed upon and confirmed in the initial consultation session.
 
 

What happens in the remaining therapy sessions?

The content of your remaining sessions will depend entirely on what has surfaced for you as a result of your engagement in the ‘Debunking Diet Culture’ course and also based on what you and your therapist have discussed in the consultation and initial therapy sessions.
 
 

Quick fire questions...

 

How long does a therapy session last?

A therapy ‘hour’ is 50 minutes long. A 50-minute session allows enough time to explore and connect with emotional topics but it’s not too long that the content becomes too overwhelming or unsustainable for you.
 

Will my therapy sessions be confidential?

Yes, anything you discuss in a therapy session is kept between you and your therapist, but there are a few important exceptions.
 
In line with professional regulatory guidance, all therapists, receive clinical supervision with another therapist. Therefore, clinical work is discussed within these supervision
sessions BUT all discussions remain anonymous.
 
The main scenario where confidentiality may need to be compromised is if there was a concerned regarding risk; to or from others, or to yourself. This, fortunately, is rare but it
is important to understand this from the outset.
 
You’ll be provided with written information regarding confidentiality before your initial consultation session takes place and any concerns can be discussed with your therapist in the session thereafter.

 

What is the cancellation policy? 

Regular therapy attendance is necessary in order to implement the work and aid the therapeutic process. However, we appreciate that unanticipated events/commitments and illness can occur during the course of therapy. We therefore adhere to a 48-hour cancellation policy. Any session cancelled with less than 48 hours-notice will remain chargeable.
 
 

Finally, an important note to consider regarding active eating disorders and online therapy:

The packages of support offered by IPA aren’t suitable for you if you are currently struggling with an active eating disorder. For example, if you are engaging in extreme bingeing, restricting and purging behaviours more than once a week then it is likely that you require more intensive care and treatment. Your physical health is very likely to be compromised and engaging in the course and/or online therapy is likely to bring your emotions to the surface. Stirring up how you really feel is a necessary and important part of the healing process - but this needs to be done at a time when you are able to fully engage without the risk of triggering further harm to yourself. If you are currently experiencing, for example, rapid weight loss (regardless of your size), are in a constant food refusal state, dehydrated and /or have signs of liver, kidney or cardiovascular issues then I urge you make an appointment to see your General Practitioner (GP) so that you can ensure you have access to the a strong support structure around you.

 

 

 

 

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