Today, we feature Jennifer Rollin’s interview with Megan Samuels.
Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about yourself and what fueled your interest in helping people to recover from eating disorders?
Megan: I am an intern for the Eating Disorder Center, being trained to treat eating disorders (and other co-occurring disorders) by some of the best and well-known therapists. I am finishing up undergraduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park and going to graduate school next year.
My dream is to be an outpatient eating disorder and trauma therapist in a group practice with other like-minded and high-achieving therapists to support me and help me grow as a therapist and as an individual. I have always appreciated challenging work and eating disorders can be very complex illnesses to treat. I am extremely passionate about speaking, writing, teaching other professionals, and educating the community in addition to seeing patients.
Jennifer: What is your approach when it comes to helping your patients who are struggling with eating disorders?
Megan: Although I am still a therapist in training, I plan to utilize an eclectic approach of DBT, CBT, ACT, psychodynamic therapy, feminist therapy, art therapy, and EMDR. I will practice from an anti-diet and a health at every size (HAES) perspective, two things that I believe any eating disorder practitioner should embody.
I have also learned the importance of being able to self-disclose (when ethical and appropriate) to a client in order to normalize what they are going through or to give them hope. I have found that appropriate self-disclosure can strengthen the therapeutic relationship, which I believe is vital in eating disorder treatment.
Jennifer: Do you utilize a health at every size approach?
Megan: Yes, and I couldn’t imagine myself ethically trained to treat eating disorders (or any mental illness) otherwise. The size of one’s body should never equate to their health, and as a society, we can do better than to stigmatize people in larger bodies and amplify fatphobia, weight bias, and eating disorders.
Learning about health at every size radically changed my life and my beliefs about society, food, and body image and I want to give that to my future clients if/when they are willing to learn.
Jennifer: What would you say are some common misconceptions when it comes to eating disorders?
Megan: One misconception when it comes to eating disorders is that in order to have anorexia nervosa, you need to be underweight. To me, this shows weight bias and fatphobia within the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and contributes to the societal expectations that one needs to meet in order to be anorexic.
One consequence of this misconception is that providers often don’t take clients seriously because they don’t “look” like they have an eating disorder. This can lead to people suffering with eating disorders not being able to get the crucial help and support that they deserve.
Jennifer: What are your biggest pet peeves about diet culture?
Megan: My biggest pet peeve about diet culture is that so many people get hooked into diet culture without knowing the evidence-based research that diets don’t work and that weight stigma can have a more negative effect than any food could have.
When I first decided that I was done with diet culture, I couldn’t believe the amount of research, anti-diet professionals, and support that there was for the anti-diet movement. I didn’t see any of that when I was purely stuck in diet culture.
Jennifer: What is important for clinicians to remember when it comes to treating clients with eating disorders?
Megan: I think it’s important for clinicians treating eating disorders to be educated about the evidence-based anti-diet research. I have always believed that you can only take your clients as far as you have gone yourself and for that purpose, I am already reading books and research articles that support health at every size (HAES) to further educate myself to best assist my future clients struggling with eating disorders.