Eating disorders result in the highest mortality than any other mental health diagnoses. As part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Senior Psychotherapist Dan Round from The Retreat, explains how he helps people start their journey of recovery and healing, as well as how his Ohashiatsu (a form of Shiatsu) training is helping him do this.

“Over the past 15 years I have specialised as a Psychotherapist working with people who have struggled with a range of problems with eating, such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.

Eating disorders are a serious mental health problem that impact our mind and body. They have a high morbidity rate and the highest mortality than any other mental health diagnoses.

In therapy, clients have shared their fears guilt and shame around food, as well as their difficulties with body image and physical problems that come with such self-destructive behaviours, such as restricting their food, binging, purging, laxative abuse and extreme compulsive exercising.

A client told me once – “the concept of loving myself and my body is alien to me, it makes me so angry when I hear people tell me that!”

“Dan, what’s wrong with me?” I often get asked, instead I ask the question “what happened to you?” Not going into self-blame and shame, but instead developing a cultivation of compassion has been a key focus in the work I do now in therapy. To understand our own and other’s suffering:  why we do what we do around food, is the first brave step to a journey of recovery and healing.

I am often reminded of the Japanese concept of Kintsukuroi; when broken objects are mended with gold and seen as more beautiful for being broken, imperfect due to its history. I share this picture in my therapy and have always been amazed by the self-compassion it generates in my patients.  Cultivating self-compassion is attending to our broken parts and giving them the reverence they deserve.     

Outside of my therapy work, I am leaning Ohashiatsu (a form of Shiatsu). The first Principles of Ohashiatsu is Just Be There. Don’t Press. Being present and paying attention to our own state of being is what allows us to pay attention to who we are helping.  As part of my Ohashiatsu training, I recently had the opportunity to visit Master Ohashi to receive a tutorial.  He asked me many times in the practice to Just Be There with my receiver as I was panicking about what to do next or “was I doing it wrong?” It was a valuable lesson because as we learn to Just Be with our clients they also learn to Just Be with themselves and see their broken parts as beautiful.”

Dan is a senior psychotherapist at The Retreat, York and part of the Ohashiatsu UK Team and is training in Ohashiatsu.