We’re excited to introduce Rachel Barbanel-Fried, Psy.D. to our Body Boop recovery community! As a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and promoter of mindfulness, Barbanel-Fried has many tips for making change and working toward health and wholeness now, and during the holiday season.
- Tell me about your practice and how you began in the field of clinical psychology. What inspired you to do the work that you do?
I’m a clinical psychologist in private practice. I came to psychology because I was working in all sorts of informal education settings (think camps, museums, after school programs) and I was drawn to the kids that were on the fringe. I wanted to run an alternative high school, and I wanted to be able to help kids and families grow in healthy ways. I never wanted to be in private practice or practice therapy, but as part of my training, I went to different placements. I ended up at a college counseling center where I had the opportunity to work with women who were struggling with eating disorders. I had lots of friends who struggled with body image, food and self esteem issues, and as a woman I’ve had my own struggles with self esteem and body image. I was immediately drawn to this population.
Later, I became a yoga teacher both because I love yoga and because I felt that I wanted to have some specific skills to teach people new techniques to help them through difficult situations. More recently, I’ve become interested in how nutrition intersects with mental health. In general, what we eat and how we eat affects how we feel, and most people don’t think about that at all.
At my core, I believe that we all have the power to live our lives to the fullest. I love having the opportunity to help people find their paths towards health.
- When we spoke, you mentioned that there were small changes people could make to help themselves feel better, if they were struggling with anxiety, depression, stress or other factors. Can you give us an example?
I think one of the things that I try to impress upon people is that all change starts small. If we want to successfully make changes we have to think “Small, Specific and Manageable.”
Example: If you are anxious, getting rid of caffeine can make a huge impact. But if you think, “Oh, I have to cut out ALL caffeine,” that might feel like a HUGE change if you are regularly drinking five cups of coffee a day.
I’d say: Swap out one cup of regular coffee for decaf or green tea, and try that for three days, then move on from there.
If you have trouble getting to sleep before midnight, but you know that you want to get to bed earlier, try to set the earlier bedtime in 15-minute increments. If you are interested in meditation, start with 3 minutes of sitting. These are all just random examples and each person has to figure out what is helpful to him/her in a specific situation.
- How does yoga and mindfulness play a part in your practice?
Our minds and our bodies are connected. Our emotions are called “feelings” because they are located in the body. Likewise, how we respond to our bodies’ needs and wants affects how we feel. I use a lot of breath awareness in my practice to help people gain tools they can take with them into the world. I suggest yoga as a way to cultivate awareness of our minds and bodies working together on a path to wholeness.
- What is your advice for someone newly struggling with an eating disorder? For someone long recovered who hits a bump in the road?
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or any mental health issue that is affecting your quality of life, seek help. Find a therapist who supports your journey towards health in a way that feels helpful and healing. That is not to be confused with the fact that therapy can be hard at times.
Try to treat yourself with love. Most of us are nicer to our friends than we are to ourselves. We understand that we will get more from our friendships if we treat our friends with love and respect. Yet, we somehow believe that we will get more from ourselves if we treat ourselves with anger and hatred. That is not true. You’ll do more and feel better if you can be as loving towards yourself as you are towards your best friends.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach in eating disorder treatment. What are other methodologies that you use as a part of your practice?
I approach each person as an individual, which means that I use different therapeutic approaches for each person. I’m trained as a psychodynamic psychologist, which means that I think about how early relationships with our parents and families affect how we are in the world currently. I also can’t help but use feminist psychology to inform my work, especially when working with people who are struggling with ED. CBT has an important place in helping people change their behaviors, and become aware of their internal monologue and how that affects them daily. I also utilize what I call “bibliotherapy,” which is recommending books for additional reading, or “film therapy” which is recommending movies and discussing them afterwards in a session.
- Do you have any other tips you would share with our #edrecovery community?
There are two things that I think are important to keep in mind. First, if you want to change, do something different. That seems simple, but so often, we keep everything the same and somehow expect the result to be different. Secondly, believe in the power of community and use that to your benefit. When we suffer, we usually suffer alone, but when we can connect to community, we don’t feel alone on top of feeling badly. It’s almost always helpful in recovery to be part of a supportive community.
Tags: #bodyboop, anorexia, anorexia recovery, anxiety, body boop, body image, bulimia, bulimia recovery, bulimics, clinical psychology, depression, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery, eating disorder treatment, ED, ED recovery, edrecovery, health, mental health, positive body image, psychology, Rachel Barbanel-Fried, recovery, self love, wellness, yoga