I have received some feedback with questions on what type of care is best and why, and to be honest, there is no one right answer, everyone’s experience within their eating disorder and within their recovery looks different and specifies for different needs. Understanding this, here are the facts, as well as, tidbits from my own experience, and I encourage everyone to make an educated decision on what “care” is best for them.
Throughout my academic career I have referred to counseling as a helping profession, but I never truly dissected the meaning behind that title. Many graduate students within the counseling field refer to themselves as therapists in training, but the accurate term for myself is technically a counselor in training (Hutchinson, 2015). Such students shy away from using the technical term of a counselor, due to a social misconception that all helping professionals are the same, but in reality there are many differences between the various helping professional roles; these include family therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage counselors, career counselors, and clinical mental health counselors (Hutchinson, 2015). Another incredibly important, and in my opinion crucial, aspect to keep in mind is to understand that said helping professionals usually specialize in a certain area, and when seeking help for an eating disorder it is best to work with a helping professional that specializes in eating disorders.
One of the distinguishing factors between a psychotherapist and counselor is the main approach within each session, as well as the overall goal, in that the counselor views the client/counselor relationship as a collaborative, egalitarian one, opposed to a psychotherapist who view themselves as the expert. Another crucial difference is that counseling is wellness based and the medical model is illness based. Understanding these differences, it is important to keep in mind that, as a future counselor, intervention and prevention is key but the entire helping process is what truly matters, in that it involves collaboration, guidance, and personal growth for both the client and the counselor. This is why I chose to work towards my counseling degree, in that I whole heartedly believe that a holistic and multidimensional approach to care is crucial in the success of any individual’s mental health.
As I continue to grow and learn within my journey of becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), I find that it is incredibly beneficial to reflect on my personal journey as well. Throughout my life, I have lost my way, in that I struggled when it came to intense emotions and coping mechanisms. In other words, as a young girl and as a young woman, I required extra guidance within my life journey, in that I carried extra weight with every emotion in response to everyday life occurrences, and through this I sought help. With this help, at the age of twenty-two, I started my eating disorder recovery; my eating disorder was classified as a non-text book, restrictive bulimia, and through this recovery I met some of the most influential individuals. One of these individuals was my nutritionist, Mary Ryan, I found Mary in Jackson, Wyoming, and with time, dedication, and many bumps in the road, I found my peace, well-being and universe of possibility.
Mary viewed me as a unique individual, in that I was not a syndrome, I was not a set of symptoms, I was not damaged, and my eating disorder did not define me. Mary worked closely with me, my parents, my counselor, and my boyfriend to help me find the recovery plan that best fit into my life, and through this collaborative force of support, I can now say that I have found my balance in life. Mary differed from any other form of support, in that she brought no judgment, bias, or definition to my “case” as a young girl with an eating disorder, and through that we both found what worked best for me, as Jayne Mattingly, not what worked best for a twenty something girl who struggled with an eating disorder. Mary was an integral part in my recovery, and my goal as a helping professional, is to help someone like she helped me.
As stated previously, throughout my life journey, I have ventured through many bumpy roads and turbulent waters and yet now that I have reached dry land, I am in need of finding connection and meaning through helping others get through life’s many obstacles. As I work towards becoming a LPC, I hope to expand upon my professional, academic, and personal strengths as well as work on my weaknesses. Seeing that I worked through my own recovery, I can confidently say that I am comfortable with dissecting my self-awareness, in that personal examination was an integral part within my treatment. Therefore I believe that one of my strengths is self-awareness, in that I excel in dissecting my past and present, belief’s, opinions, biases, and assumptions ( Mattingly, 2016).
Moving forward, I hope to work towards maintaining self-awareness, empathy and sensitivity within the client/counselor relationship, without imposing the client’s struggles and issues onto myself as a person. In other words, one of my weaknesses is caring too much, and lacking the ability to leave work at work, because even helping professionals need to practice self-care! As I have stated before, and I will state many more times, you cannot function within life if you cannot truly take care of yourself! Hutchinson (2015), spoke on this topic, in that counseling can be draining and difficult work, therefore in order for a counselor to be effective and successful within the client/counselor relationship, they must find wholeness within their physical, emotional, social and familial, working, intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual self. Therefore as a future LPC, a young woman within eating disorder recovery, and an academic, I will continue to embrace my strengths within my self-awareness, but also work towards finding my “whole self” in order to become the most effective person that I can be. The journey of self care has no exceptions for ANYONE, and is forever necessary, therefore, I ask you to join me on this journey in self care!
Hutchinson, D. (2015). An Invitation to Counseling Work. The essential counselor. Process, skills and techniques (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage
Mattingly, J (2016). Unit 1 Discussion. Helping Relationships and Skill Development in the Counseling Profession. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Stone Zander, R.A. & Zander, B. (2002). Stepping into a Universe of Possibility. The art of possibility. Transforming professional and personal life. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.