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Meaning Making in the Treatment of Eating Disorders

  • Whole Connection 100 Arapahoe Avenue Ste 9 Boulder, CO, 80302 United States (map)


One of the challenges when working with patients with eating disorders is encountering the rigid and concrete thinking, experiencing, and behaving represented through food and the body. How do clinicians walk the tight rope of assessing and working with these overt symptoms while simultaneously accounting for their emotional and relational meanings? During this training we will discuss some of the developmental deficits that contribute to problems in mentalization and symbolic thinking, and how these experiences influence the onset and maintenance of eating disorders. We will discuss the use and implementation of behavioral interventions that promote containment, and consider different ways of engagement with patients, their possible impact on the therapeutic relationship and meaning broadly. We will also focus on the importance of cultivating the therapist’s internal thinking and feeling space, and the significance of knowing how and when not to act with skills or tools (often informed by one’s own internal, somatic reactions or clinician countertransference). Finally, through a case example we will discuss the arc of long-term eating disorders treatment and progression in therapy in terms of a growing recognition of a shared two-person, mind and bodied space. 

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Presenter & Bio: 

Dana Satir, PhD, CEDS, is a licensed clinical psychologist and Certified Eating Disorders Specialist in private practice in Denver and Boulder, providing integrative and relational psychoanalytic psychotherapy, clinical supervision and consultation. In 2012 she was awarded her doctorate in psychology from Boston University and completed her clinical internship at the Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School in adult community psychiatry. She went on to receive advanced training in family-based treatment (Maudsley approach) during her postdoctoral fellowship at Children's Hospital Colorado. Dr. Satir is also an Adjunct Instructor in the Counseling Psychology Department at the University of Denver, where she teaches courses on eating disorders treatment and psychodynamic psychotherapy. She remains active in research and writing focused on the treatment process, including the psychoanalytic treatment of eating disorders and clinician countertransference with complex patient populations.