Self Soothing and Art Therapy

Spotlight Article by Jamie Jones, MA, LPC, ATR; Eating Disorder & Body Image Specialist, Tatsumi & Jones

Self Soothing and Art Therapy


Jamie-JonesJamie Jones, MA, LPC, ATR, has a private practice located in Northwest Washington DC.   She specializes in the treatment of self-harming behavior as a verbal and art therapist and she offers both individual and group therapy.  She has training in Brief Solution Focused Family Therapy (BSFFT), Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and she earned a Master’s degree in Art Therapy from The George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Marymount University. 

Jamie’s practice offers topic specific groups for multi-week programs on an ongoing basis.  To learn more about these groups please contact her at 202-244-0818 for a free 15 minute consultation, to register for group services, and to set individual therapy appointments. 

Additionally, Jamie offers her expertise as a volunteer Educational Coordinator and Therapist at Rock Recovery where she gives presentations about the Biochemistry of Disordered Eating and Pathways for Accepting and Appreciating your Body Image.    

She is a member of the Bing Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T), and Society for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Association (SFDBT).   

When outside of the office she enjoys working as a design consultant for residential and commercial spaces, is an avid gardener, painter, and innovator.

Stop Avoiding Life

People are like a combination lock.  They are constantly searching to find their personal code in order to become unlocked and free.  Unlike a combination lock, however, people are not born with an instruction manual or numeric access.  Instead, people must explore their environment throughout each of the life stages to develop their very own, unique, code to access their freedom.

When someone sticks with a combination that is not working they become stuck and do not find freedom, but through exploration and the act of “doing” a person discovers his or her own freedom.  Similarly, when a person has engaged in binge eating behaviors year-after-year-after-year, and they recognize their behavior is not a part of their personal code leading to long-term freedom, they recognize being stuck in a self-destructive and repetitious cycle.  Eventually, the larger question emerges, what do I do about my Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

A person may have found some portion of their personal combination for freedom.  For instance they may have in place a great career, supportive relationships with family and friends, spirituality, but important additional parts of the personal code are missing.

As a therapist who specializes in the treatment of self-harming behaviors, I believe one of the best ways to find the remaining parts of the code is through the act of “doing.”  Engaging in something different, something you have never tried before.  Something that makes you feel good about the choices you are making while learning new ways to solve problems.  Engaging in activities to stop being avoidant, to decrease compulsion, to significantly reduce anxiety, fear, and depression.  If you do not try therapy how will you know if it helps or not?

As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Credentialed Art Therapist I combine and integrate the use of verbal and non-verbal therapy to engage those individuals struggling with BED in a different form of coping.  A form of therapy which helps people begin “doing and becoming” and assists them in a step-by-step process to find their unique combination code to freedom.

BED is a physical act of self soothing and so is art therapy.  The combination of talk and art therapy taps into and encourages the communication between both the left and right hemispheres of the brain allowing individuals to develop new and different problem-solving and self-soothing skills.

When we create artwork we are making alpha waves in the brain which are associated with both an increase in relaxation and ability to focus.  Individuals experience a sense of relaxation while creating the artwork and learn a new and different way to work through perfectionism, people pleasing, low self-esteem, and negative self-talk.  They learn new and undiscovered strengths and talents, the acceptance of which guides and assists them in the next step; working through body image challenges.

The brain is in constant communication with the body and additional signals are sent when the person begins doing something.  When the ‘something’ is new, different and pleasurable, they have an opportunity to become unstuck.

Verbal therapy combined with non-verbal therapy is a form of “doing” which begins to change the individual’s perception of their environment, how they view themselves and others.  They begin to see solutions to problems and ways of changing their BED that they never noticed before.  By learning new ways to perceive their world and acknowledging new possibilities, hope is fostered.  Hope and optimism further the development of additional needs and help to establish the personal combination code to freedom.

People struggling with BED talk about the physical act of purging, running, or using laxatives to release the initial comfort and later discomfort from over eating; to temporarily rid themselves from feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.  There are other ways to gain a sense of relief and release; through a healthy and different type of physical act, art therapy.

Once the art is created, a visual testament exists, representing the person’s internal state of discomfort.  As a result, the artwork often does not look pretty, but pretty is not the goal.  The repetitive pain and discomfort from over eating generally does not feel good but the release does.  People become addicted to the act and cycle of binging and possibly purging so the cycle needs to be sublimated.  Sublimation is not the same as substitution, sublimation is a healthy self-rewarding, non self-destructive act which, in BED, leads to meaningful life long freedom from pain, discomfort, stress, anxiety and depression.

These new ways of “doing” are to be learned and practiced under the guidance of the therapist and clients are asked to implement these skills into their daily living in order to develop their personal combination code.

I often find people who are new to the idea of art therapy say, “I am not an artist, I can’t draw.”  My response is that it is not about what the image looks like, but rather, it is about the act of “doing” something physical and learning to sublimate the internal discomfort and pain.

What is treating BED through art therapy about?

It’s about making the internal external to can see, document and share the struggle.  It is about “doing” in order to engage in a process that will change the way to see, do, and live life.   It’s about caring enough about health and life to do something different which will connect with the inner child that deeply wants to be adventurous, to feel alive, and to be playful.   It is about the adolescent who wants to make new friends, to learn new things, and to find personal joy and strength.  It’s the adult who wants to be accepted not rejected, who wants to feel noticed and loved not isolated and alone.

It is about the person who wants to be seen for their strengths and not their eating disorder.


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