Eating Disorders: Symbolic Expression and Treatment – Webinar



Eating disorders are disturbances of relationships: Relationships to others and the environment, to oneself, to one’s emotions, and to one’s needs, desires, and imagination.  Free from externally exposed famine means we are all the freer to project onto food that have nothing to do with assuaging our alimentary needs, seeking through eating to satisfy our longing for affection or sexual fulfillment, or to muffle our grief or rage (Woodman, 1980).  Food can also become the repository of our secret fears and fantasies of perfect health and thus becomes a symbolic function of complex, underlying psychological processes (Burch, 1973; Dean, 2013a, 2013b; Dallett, 2008; Woodman,1980,1982).  Jung stated, “The underlying, primary psychic reality is so inconceivably complex that it can be grasped only by the farthest reach of intuition, and then but very dimly.  That is why it needs symbols” (1975a, p. 159).

iStock_000005442778MediumArt psychotherapists are especially poised to work with art and images, symbolic function, in the therapeutic process with clients who manifest eating disordered behaviors.  Thus providing an experience that creates the necessary bridge over deficits left by personal and cultural experiences, which have failed to provide adequate nurturance for development (Isis, Bishop, Tulucci, Dean & Betchel, 2012; van der Kolk, Perry & Herman, 1991).  As art psychotherapists, patients, and as a culture this means, “[…] cultivating new skills and enlarging our scientific horizons so that there is room for the creativity that is a part of our everyday experience of living” (Goodman, 2007, p. 31) restoring symbolic function to a process rather than direct destruction, and potentially lethal actions, upon the body (Dean, 2008; Jackson, 1996; Ramos, 2004; Sidoli, 2000). 

This webinar explores the symbolic nature of eating disorders from a personal, familial, cultural, and environmental perspective utilizing a Jungian and depth psychology framework.  The importance of context and symbolic function in attachment ruptures, trauma, and recovery is discussed as well as the meaningful treatment of such symptoms through a symbolic, image-based means, such as art psychotherapy.  This dynamic webinar is intended for the advanced and experienced mental health clinician, however, all levels of art and clinical experience are welcome.

References and Outline:

Provided upon registration 


Learning Objectives:

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 8.57.28 PMParticipants will be able to:

  1. Name at least three significant factors impacting individuals who develop eating disorders.


  1. Identify the importance of imagination and play in recovery from an eating disorder by naming at least two functions as they relate to the clinical experience.


  1. Describe the importance of symbolic function in psychological processes in both symptom formation and its treatment.



Creative Arts Therapists, Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Professional Counselors, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Therapists, and other professional mental health clinicians.


Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP has 20 years expertise in treating individuals who struggle with addictions, eating disorders, relationship issues, and traumatic experiences.  In addition to her clinical practice, she is an author, supervisor, educator, and consultant.  She has been an Adjunct Professor at Arcadia University since 1997 and has several publications about eating disorders to her credit, including the children’s book, Taking Weight Issues to School.  Her work has been recognized through many distinguished awards, including the prestigious Honorary Life Member Award from 1

Special Note:  

If you were disappointed that Michelle’s portion of the 2012 Plenary Keynote at The 43rd American Art Therapy Association’s Conference in Savannah, GA was cut short due to scheduling overruns, you will want to register for this program as it is the extended version of her keynote lecture.


The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6302. Program that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

One and a half (1.5) Continuing Education clock hours are available for this webinar. Partial credits are not available. 


Please note that only current members of The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC are eligible for the member’s rate.  If you wish to become a member at this time in order take advantage of this and other discounts, kindly visit our membership page in order to add your desired level of membership to your cart.  Thank you for your understanding and attention.

Regular Registration for Members: $45, Non-Members: $60. You must be a current member of The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC to receive this price. A recorded version will be available shortly after the program for repeat viewing and distance-learning options.  Consider becoming a member to receive additional discounts.




For additional information, please kindly visit our Registration Information and Locations and Accommodation pages.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation via a downloadable file and notes, which  contain information about viewing the pre-recorded the webinar, which will be hosted by GoToWebinar®.  You will need to have internet access and in some cases download the free application to your device for easy viewing. Also attached will be a downloadable file which contains a printable handout for the course.  It includes the descriptions and objectives.  It is only available upon purchase.  Thank you again! See you soon.

If you have difficulty signing in, please email:

 © 2014, All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, HLM (DVATA)