What does a depth-oriented approach mean?
At Reasons one of our key philosophical tenets is a focus on wholeness and integration. While much of our programming is focused on helping our patients reduce distress and anxiety and make necessary behavioral changes, we also believe that focusing on symptom relief alone is not enough. Behaviors may subside or resolve altogether, but if the deeper issues are not explored, problems may arise in other areas as different symptoms. For example, one may have continuing issues in relationships, difficulty at work, or turn to substances to cope.
A depth-oriented approach is a way of seeing and understanding. It includes metaphor, images, creativity, and attention to the soul. There is a fundamental assumption that healing is a return to an original state of wholeness that is intrinsic to each of us. Symptoms are seen as metaphors or indications to pay attention to something deeper rather than simply things to get rid of- for example, asking our patients with eating disorders to pay attention to the meaning of and psychological connection to food and body.
As a treatment team, we have a deep respect for the unknown and take a position of curiosity alongside our patients about what might be beyond the symptom. This means we make no assumptions about family dynamics or history of trauma, but instead work with our patients to explore what issues might be present and need to be addressed in order for them to consciously and authentically live in the world.
Key Elements of a Depth Approach
Honoring the Symptom
We work with our patients to reduce the profound shame around the parts of themselves that they feel are bad or defective. This means we are not focused on “fixing” an inherent flaw, but rather help our patients learn how to pay attention to and care for their inner world, starting from a place of curiosity about what is being revealed in the symptom or suffering. Our team makes a commitment to think beyond the symptoms in order to see our patients as human beings capable of engaging in courageous, difficult work in the service of healing and meaningful recovery.
Consciously or unconsciously, meaning is made all day, every day. Many of our patients are asking difficult questions, like “What is my purpose?” or more broadly “What is the purpose in all life?” We utilize the concept of making meaning to move our patients towards wholeness and integration. The goal here is to help our patients find their unique meaning or purpose in life and bring that into the world and into their relationships.
Meaning making opens the door to integration. Rather than getting rid of a part of oneself, we encourage our patients to explore the possibilities in life they may have rejected in service of the eating disorder and how they might begin to creatively live life. We provide daily opportunities to allow for the intentional, mindful experiencing of the full range of thoughts and emotions that are an integral part of everyday life.