Eating disorders are complex and severe mental health illnesses which can have devastating effects and consequences. When a person is suffering from an eating disorder, the dietary behaviour and actions that they take to control their weight will usually be unstable, which can have a significant impact on their health as well as their mental, emotional and social wellbeing.

Eating disorders typically come with a range of difficulties including behavioural issues, dysfunctional thinking patterns and beliefs, eating habits and physical symptoms as well as impaired mood and social relationships. The high mortality rates associated with eating disorders also adds to the importance of developing successful treatment interventions to help better a person’s chance of recovery.

Gabriele Malinauskaite, eating disorders psychotherapist at Priory Hospital Woking, has looked at the importance of group therapy for people struggling with eating disorders, describing how they can help a person as they work towards recovery.

How group therapy helps people with eating disorders

Group-based treatment can have benefits that would otherwise be difficult to achieve when only working on a one-to-one basis.

The use of group methods in psychotherapy rests on the central idea that:

"Exposure to one’s own problems and pain as they are experienced in the lives of the others facing you can bring about change of an unforeseen kind with far-reaching consequences"

(Schlapobersky, 2016)

Therapy groups nurture intimate conversation, which allows people to gain insight as well as see and observe eating disorders in relation to the group. When provided by a specialised and experienced therapist, these therapeutic groups can relieve emotional pain, untie isolation, resolve distress, provide healing and bring about changes to a person’s thoughts and emotions as well as their personal relations.

Helping people understand they are not alone

Research shows that people with eating disorders can often feel conflicted, suffer from low motivation and be reluctant to engage with treatment. People coming into treatment tend to remember feeling alienated and distressed when coping with their illness in isolation.

Working in a group setting, making connections and sharing experiences of their own can provide people with the crucial opportunity to be heard and seen, helping them to understand that they are not alone.

We see people shortly after they start growing into the group, where they have begun to gain invaluable experiences and interpersonal skills to help them confront unhelpful behaviours and thought processes. Through tackling internal and relational difficulties, significant shifts are being made to improve their quality of life and prevent relapse.

Eating disorder services at Priory

Priory Hospital Woking offers evidence-based, gold standard personalised treatment for a variety of eating disorders in accordance to NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance for adult female inpatients, day-patients and outpatients with a BMI of over 14. Men can be seen as outpatients too.

The philosophy of our treatment is based on principles of collaboration, respect and containment. Our specialist professionals work together as a team with patients to overcome their eating disorders.

We provide a specialised group-based programme of therapeutic treatment, including the following:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Modified dialectical behavioural therapy
  • Problem solving and dietetic groups
  • Creative, expressive and explorative groups

The treatment programme involves tackling the following areas for recovery and change:

  • Existing cognitions and beliefs
  • Learning new ways of coping
  • Addressing unhelpful behaviour patterns
  • Learning and deepening the understanding about one’s illness and its roots
  • Dietetic groups
  • Relapse prevention,
  • Emotional and social-relational growth

Our patients report that they value the variety of specialised groups Priory Hospital Woking provides as it allows them to identify, express, explore and process their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

If you would like to find out more about the services at Woking or the eating disorder treatment available at another one of our hospitals across the UK, please call us on 0800 840 3219 or click here to make an enquiry online.