What is a therapist?A “therapist” is usually used as a general term for someone who helps individuals who are experiencing emotional and psychological difficulties to explore their issues and make changes in order to feel better. It is also often used as a short-hand for a psychotherapist or counsellor (essentially the same thing but with a slightly different training). A psychotherapist (or counsellor) specifically recognises the lasting impact of the past and is focused on looking at what has happened to you, rather than what is “wrong” with you and how that might be impacting the present.
Some types of therapists include:
- A person-centred therapist has humanistic training and holds the view that everyone is an “expert” in their own lives and has the capacity for growth and change. The counsellor provides a safe space for this exploration by offering empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard.
- A psychodynamic therapist focuses on how the unconscious and past experiences shape current behaviour. They might help you to talk about childhood relationships with your parents and other significant people and consider the impact of these. A psychodynamic therapist might be more directive and/or interpretive than a person-centred one.
- A cognitive-behavioural therapist usually focuses more on the present and uses specific practical techniques to identify intrusive negative thoughts and beliefs and seeks to challenge and change these into ones that are more helpful and less harmful.
- An integrative therapist is one who uses techniques and theories from different modalities to tailor an individual approach for the client.
What kind of therapist can help with food and body image difficulties?Any therapist can potentially help with food and body image difficulties but it might be helpful to look for one who specialises in disordered eating, eating disorders and/or intuitive eating. Often these issues will have started in childhood and so a person-centred, psychodynamic or integrative therapist is often the most appropriate and will help you to consider:
- What were/are your parents’/carers’/siblings’ relationships with food/body like?
- What messages were you given about food (implicitly and explicitly) growing up? – What messages were you given about your body (implicitly and explicitly) growing up?
- What societal/ cultural messages were/are there about food/bodies/movement?
- Which significant events from childhood might have impacted how you felt about food/ your body?
- How and why might food be a coping mechanism for psychological or emotional issues?