Knitting Together Skills for Eating Disorder Recovery

April is National Occupational Therapy Month ~ #OTMonth 


If you’ve had an eating disorder yourself, or you know someone who has, you might know all-too-well that one of the side effects of these illnesses is decreased engagement in meaningful, fun or productive activities. Eating disorders have a way of overtaking a person’s energy and time, even altering the way the brain works.Knitted squares in blue, grey and white; the beginning stages of a blanket

As more time is spent obsessing about food and weight, and engaging in symptomatic behaviors, there tends to be less and less mental energy available for activities unrelated to meals, food or thoughts  of body dissatisfaction.  By no fault of their own, individuals who develop eating disorders often don’t realize how much the eating disorder shifts their focus and leads them away from people,  events, and activities they once enjoyed.  This is one of the reasons The Center for Eating Disorders (CED) at Sheppard Pratt has always incorporated Occupational Therapy into our treatment options for individuals with eating disorders.An individual’s “occupation” is any activity that occupies his or her time.  Thus, Occupational Therapists (OTs) focus on enabling people to participate in meaningful and purposeful activities of daily life. At CED, our OTs work to provide individuals with a setting where the behavioral changes made through Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and insights learned in other psychotherapies can be converted into new behaviors that become part of the long-term healing process. We’ve written before about some of the ways our OT Department does this through Horticulture Groups.  Similar work is done throughout the year in different ways – including through mindful knitting groups.

Knitting is a craft that requires both physical and cognitive skills and thus engages both mind and body simultaneously. Knitting has the advantage of engaging the senses with the sound of the needles, touch of the yarn and movement of the hands that, together, hold the attention of the mind in the present moment. Repetitive action can be calming, textures can provide grounding opportunities and hand movements offer engagement for mind and body. This can be a much-needed relief for persons with eating disorders whose thoughts are constantly being pulled to the last meal or to the next one, or to persistent negative beliefs about their body, weight or size.

Over the last two years since our knitting program began, the OTs in The Center for Eating Disorders’ Partial Hospital Program (PHP) facilitated two therapeutic knitting groups, running twice a week for 8 months a year as an addendum to our core CBT protocols and additional evidence-based therapies. Participants could join for one session or many and were reminded frequently that each contribution is part of the whole. In these groups, patients who were veteran knitters joined beginners, learning new skills and sharing experiences. The groups were an opportunity for individuals to practice mindfulness and socialize with peers while, as one participant put it, “focus on calming,repetitive activity that also produces a tangible result” completely separate from anything related to one’s eating disorder.  The tangible result? Mindful knitting participants worked to create a collage of knitted squares which, when knitted together, became finished baby blankets.

When asked about the impact of the groups, individuals indicated  they “became more centered, distracted from my negative thoughts”  and “my anxiety level changed”.  Others shared that “the knitting was calming; the repetitiveness of the knitting felt good.” The power of knitting as a therapeutic tool has been documented outside the individual experiences of our patients. According to Corkhill et al., (2014), knitting in groups can impact perceived happiness, improve social confidence and feelings of belonging.

The knitting group, like many of our other OT groups, offers a safe environment to explore a new hobby (or rekindle interest in an old one), challenge perfectionistic tendencies, relax in recovery-focused ways, and stay in the moment with the flow of the needles and yarn.  This opportunity to engage the mind and the body also allowed for reflection on the healing and recovery process. When our most recent group of participants were asked how to apply the skills learned in knitting group to their broader recovery goals, responses included all of the following:

  • “ I can look at each of my new coping skills as accomplishments and enjoy the state of calmness.”
  • “I didn’t give up. I can remember not to give up so quickly.”
  • “I was able to feel good about myself. I can definitely use that for self-esteem issues.”
  • “[I’m] very excited to go home and knit. It’s so helpful to practice being in the moment.

The knitting groups provided a healing experience, new mindfulness skills and a variety of powerful reflections for participants. They also provided participants with an outcome they could feel good about. Upon completion, the group’s resulting baby blankets were donated to newborns at Mt.Washington Pediatric Hospital where they can continue to promote healing in new and important ways.

Would you like to find out more about OT and other treatment options at The Center for Eating Disorders? Call us today at (410) 938-5252.


Christine Brown, MS, OTR/L

Blog Contributor: Christine Brown, MS, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist at The Center for Eating Disorders. Christine received her Masters of Science degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999. Prior to joining the team at The Center for Eating Disorders, Christine spent time providing community-based services as an intensive case manager and worked in a general psychiatric inpatient and partial hospital program.  In her current role at The Center, Christine provides occupational therapy for adults and adolescents in our inpatient and partial hospital programs. She assists patients in increasing engagement in valued roles and meaningful occupations through group and individual interventions. In addition to the knitting group and other OT groups, Christine facilitates the sensory awareness and horticulture specialty groups.

 


Reference:

Corkhill, Betsan & Hemmings, Jessica & Maddock, Angela & Riley, Jill. (2014). Knitting and Well-being. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture. 12. 10.2752/175183514×13916051793433.

 

Exciting Developments at The Center for Eating Disorders’ Intensive Outpatient Program

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An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for eating disorders can be important for individuals who are transitioning out of an inpatient or partial hospital setting but would still benefit from more support and structure than is typically offered through weekly outpatient therapy.  The Center for Eating Disorders’  IOP provides 16 hours per week of intensive treatment in the evenings to allow individuals to fully engage in school, work and family during the day while continuing to focus on their recovery.

In the past six months, the IOP has seen some exciting changes and updates in programming. The program has returned to (a newly renovated!) space on the ground floor of the Sheppard Pratt B building, just downstairs from the inpatient and partial hospital units. Our multidisciplinary treatment team now includes members from psychiatry, psychology, art therapy, nutrition, occupational therapy, and social work.

Some of the recent exciting additions to IOP include:

  • Medical DirectorHeather Goff, MD has stepped into the role of Medical Director for the IOP, leading the multidisciplinary treatment team in providing care for patients. She also provides psychiatric treatment to all patients, including weekly assessments and medication management.
  • Clinical CoordinatorMorgan Krumeich, PsyD joined the IOP team in 2014 as our new clinical coordinator. She also leads group therapy and works with patients on an individual basis.
  • Collaborative Care Group – IOP now offers a weekly collaborative care group for parents, caregivers, and supports. Run by IOP social worker Annie Hanley, this group is similar to those offered at other levels of care, but is tailored specifically to the needs and issues that may arise during IOP treatment and associated transitions. All support persons are highly encouraged to attend this free weekly group, held on Tuesdays from 6:30PM-7:30PM.
  • Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapist Rachel Dehart has joined the IOP team and runs weekly OT groups for adults. Adolescents also have the opportunity to meet with an occupational therapist as needed. OT groups in IOP focus on the unique needs of individuals with eating disorders, including time management, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, involvement in the community, work or volunteering, and school.
  • Individualized Nutrition Consultations – With two dietitians now on the IOP team, Caitlin Royster and Kelly Daugherty, we continue to offer weekly nutrition groups for all patients. Additionally, dietitians are working to provide individual assessments and nutrition consultation for patients on a weekly basis.

The Intensive Outpatient Program is designed to work closely with individuals, their families, and outpatient providers in order to offer the most comprehensive care possible. And of course, we always work to incorporate patient feedback in order to ensure the IOP is continuously developing and meeting the needs of individuals, families and the community.

If you have questions about the Intensive Outpatient Program, please call (410) 938-5252 or email EatingDisorderInfo@sheppardpratt.org.

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Meet the IOP Staff

Heather Goff, M.D.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
Medical Director, Intensive Outpatient Program
Dr. Goff joined the Center for Eating Disorders in 2011. A child and adolescent psychiatrist, she is board-certified in both Adult Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, providing her a developmental perspective that enhances her work with patients of all ages. Her initial medical training was at New York Medical College, followed by a residency in Adult Psychiatry at Yale University, where she was a chief resident in 2005-2006. She then went on to complete a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, where she was again chosen to be a chief resident in 2007-2008. Upon completion of her post-graduate training, Dr. Goff joined the Yale faculty, with joint appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and the Child Study Center. As a clinician-educator, she was the teaching attending for one of the adolescent inpatient units. She also served as Director of the Child Study Center at Madison, where she provided direct outpatient care to children, adolescents and their families. While at Yale, Dr. Goff was also a fellow at the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Public Policy, leading to her interest in the intersection of the media and social policy in the development and treatment of eating disorders. In her role at CED, Dr. Goff spent one year treating individuals in the inpatient and the partial hospital programs. In 2012, she transitioned to a new role as Medical Director of the Center’s Intensive Outpatient Program and is also completing assessments and evaluations for children and adolescents in our outpatient department.

Erin Birely, LGPC
Mental Health Counselor
Erin Birely graduated from Loyola University in Maryland in 2012 with a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology. She completed a year of internship at the Center for Eating Disorders from 2011-2012, and subsequently began working full time in 2012. She is currently working towards her LCPC certification. Erin provides individual check ins and goal setting with patients. Additionally she facilitates DBT groups focusing on symptom management and emotion regulation, and IPT groups focusing on processing interpersonal difficulties, as well as leading the Multi-Family and Supports Group on Wednesdays.

Kelly Daugherty, RD, LDN
Clinical Dietitian
Kelly Daugherty received her Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Saint Catherine University in Minnesota. She completed her dietetic internship with an emphasis in clinical nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. During this internship, Kelly completed rotations on an acute care eating disorder unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and at the Center for Eating Disorders. Kelly joined the CED team in November 2014. She completes nutrition assessments, teaches nutrition groups and assists patients with menu planning in the inpatient, partial hospital, and intensive outpatient programs.

Caitlin Royster, RD, LDN
Clinical Dietitian
Caitlin Royster received her Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics from Cornell University. She completed her dietetic internship with a focus on clinical nutrition and nutrition research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. Caitlin joined the Center for Eating Disorders in July 2014. Here she conducts nutrition assessments, teaches nutrition groups, and assists patients with meal planning in the inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs. Prior to joining the Center for Eating Disorders, Caitlin worked in an acute care setting providing medical nutrition therapy and nutrition education to patients. Caitlin is passionate about neutralizing food for her patients and takes a non-diet approach to nutrition education.

Rachel Dehart MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist II
Rachel Dehart graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public & Community Health from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2007. She received her Master of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy from Towson University in 2010. Rachel is currently an occupational therapist on the Children’s Short-Term Inpatient Unit where she adapts and grades activities to meet various physical, emotional, and cognitive levels of children aged 3-12. Rachel facilitates Life Skills and Time Management occupational therapy groups in the CED Intensive Outpatient Program to assist patients with re-engagement in meaningful occupations at home and within the community.

Annie Hanley, LGSW
Family Therapist
Annie Hanley graduated from University of South Carolina with a Masters of Social Work in 2014. She is currently certified as a Licensed Graduate Social Worker and is working towards her LCSW-C licensure. Prior to joining the Center for Eating Disorders, Annie provided individual and family therapy at an eating disorder treatment center at both the inpatient and outpatient levels of care. She also has experience using the Trauma-Focused CBT model to work with children who have experienced trauma. In her current role, Annie works as a family therapist in the inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient levels of care. She also facilitates groups in the intensive outpatient program (IOP), including the Tuesday IOP Collaborative Care group for family members and support people. Her past research includes examining the role of peer influence on eating disorder development.

Brianna Garrold, ATR
Clinical Art Therapist
Brianna Garrold received her BA in Fine Arts from Notre Dame of Maryland University in 2010 (formerly College of Notre Dame of Maryland) and her MA from The George Washington University in Art Therapy in 2012, with additional coursework in counseling and Trauma-Informed Care. Currently, Brianna works with inpatient, partial hospitalization, and Intensive Outpatient Program patients using the art process to help patients identify and express their emotions, manage anxiety, and treat body image distortions. Brianna received her ATR in September 2014, and is currently working towards completing the LCPC, and the LCPAT, Licensed Clinical Professional Art Therapist.

Morgan Krumeich, Psy.D.
Clinical Coordinator, Intensive Outpatient Program
Dr. Morgan Krumeich graduated from The George Washington University in 2014 with her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Prior to obtaining her doctoral degree, Dr. Krumeich obtained a Masters in Clinical Psychology from The George Washington University as well as a Masters in Education (specializing in Applied Child Studies) from Vanderbilt University. She previously spent two years at Sheppard Pratt as a psychology extern at The Lodge School, where she conducted individual therapy, in addition to co-leading group and family therapy. Dr. Krumeich completed a year of internship as a school psychologist in the Newark Public School System before returning to Sheppard Pratt in 2014 to become Clinical Coordinator at the Center for Eating Disorders Intensive Outpatient Program. Dr. Krumeich has specialized training in working with children and adolescents, but she has experience (and enjoys!) working with individuals of all ages.

 

Planting the Seeds of Recovery: Horticultural Therapy for Eating Disorders

Occupational therapists focus on enabling people to participate in meaningful and purposeful activities of daily life.

When a person struggles with an eating disorder (ED), prior life interests and activities of enjoyment are gradually replaced by activities devoted to weight loss and an increasing focus on the thin body ideal.  Individuals may discover that engagement in many occupations, including self-care, socializing, participating in leisure activities, or attending work and school become increasingly difficult.  It is the goal of occupational therapists to assist patients in reengaging in these valued roles and to help them reestablish balance in life through a variety of modalities. One of the many ways in which occupational therapists at The Center for Eating Disorders help to do this is through horticultural therapy groups.

Therapeutic horticulture is defined as “a process that uses plants and plant-related activities through which participants strive to improve their well-being” (American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), 2007).   Therapeutic horticulture is one of a variety of occupational therapy groups offered at The Center in addition to CBT, family therapy, DBT, art therapy, nutritional counseling and other traditional evidence-based treatments. Occupational therapists at The Center for Eating Disorders provide adult and adolescent patients with a unique opportunity to engage in therapeutic horticulture on a weekly basis. This horticulture group was developed for its therapeutic value in assisting patients with EDs to increase socialization, improve self-esteem and build competence through working with tangible objects and results (Myers, 1998).  Current literature indicates that horticulture has additional benefits as well, including:

  • improved concentration and attention
  • reduced stress
  • decreased anxiety
  • improved mood
  • improved social integration and interaction (AHTA, 2007)

Given that individuals with EDs often report that their eating disorder negatively impacts concentration,  anxiety, stress, mood and social relationships, the  benefits of therapeutic horticulture listed above are a particularly good fit for our patients.  Overall, horticulture aims to improve well-being, increase socialization in a group setting, and assist patients in identifying life-long leisure interests.

Horticulture is now offered year-round in The Center for Eating Disorders’ inpatient and partial hospital programs.  The weekly therapeutic groups include activities such as:

  • Basic horticulture education – how to care for plants and maintain a garden
  • Planting and cultivating a variety of plants including herbs, vegetables, and flowers
  • Planting and caring for houseplants
  • Indoor plant-related activities including: lavender sachets, pressed flower bookmarks, and construction of birdhouses
  • Socialization with peers in small-group setting
  • Relationship between caring for plants and oneself: connections to self-care
  • Integration with food preparation – Vegetables and herbs produced during horticulture are used during therapeutic snack preparation.  Using the food they’ve helped to grow assists patients in establishing a connection between leisure and self-care.
  • Leisure identification – if one enjoys horticulture, how might this leisure interest be continued outside of the treatment setting?

Individuals with EDs often spend a great deal of time pre-occupied with thoughts and behaviors related to their eating disorder.  Thus, an important part of the recovery process may involve finding or re-connecting to passions and interests outside of the disorder that one can devote their time and energy towards.  In addition to the innate benefits discussed above, horticulture can provide this type of positive, healthy outlet for individuals during treatment and upon their return home .

If you have questions about the horticultural therapy program at The Center for Eating Disorders, please email our Occupational Therapy Coordinator at ehaldeman@sheppardpratt.org.  You can also read more about Occupational Therapy for Patients with Eating Disorders.

Written by: Jennifer Lane, MS, OTR/L

References:

Messer Diehl, E. R. (Ed.). (2007). Definitions and positions. American Horticultural Therapy Association. http://www.ahta.org/documents/Final_HT_Position_Paper_updated_409.pdf.

Myers, M. (1998). Brief reports: empowerment and community building through a gardening project. Psychiatric Rehabiliation, 22, 181-183.

Photo courtesy of http://www.horticultural-therapy.org/