We’ve been speaking with Professor Julia Buckroyd recently. We’ve worked with Julia several times before, primarily looking at issues around body image, narcissism, and disordered eating. Julia is returning later this year to deliver a workshop on Working Therapeutically with Disordered Eating on 12th November 2022.
To brief us about the upcoming workshop, and tell us a little bit about herself and her profession, here’s Julia Buckroyd.
1. How did you start out in counselling & psychotherapy?
There were really two triggers for me. The first was that I had been very depressed and suicidal as a student and was fortunate enough to get what was for the time, excellent therapeutic, residential care in a specialised adolescent unit. We had daily groups and weekly sessions with our own therapist as well as ongoing encouragement to be thinking about what was going on with us. I found it absolutely revelatory; it was the foundation of my ongoing attempts to address my history and was literally life giving. I was therefore a convert to the whole idea of therapy.
Then the other more immediate trigger was a job where I had pastoral charge of a group of about 25 students. It very soon became apparent to me that I needed more skill and understanding than I then possessed, so that prompted me to do a Diploma in Student Counselling at Birkbeck. As soon as I qualified I got a job as student counsellor at London Contemporary Dance School. I’ve worked as a therapist (and later, trainer) ever since.
2. You are well-known for your specialism on disordered eating. What started your interest in this work?
In that first job at London Contemporary Dance School I came across many students who had great difficulty with self-image and many anxieties about shape, weight and size, amplified of course by their experiences as trainee dancers. Some of them would have been diagnosable with eating disorders (not that there was treatment readily available) but many I would now think of as having disordered eating.
At the time there was much less known or understood about these issues, so I was on the front line, trying to figure it out as well as I could. I found the whole subject fascinating and have specialised ever since in that area.
3. You’ve written a number of books. What are the joys and challenges of book writing for you?
I have a question that I sometimes ask clients and have asked myself: “What is it that you do that makes you feel most like yourself?”
It’s an interesting question and my answer is ‘writing’. I get really excited and nervous when I’m going to write something. I find the process of thinking and researching and ordering material really stimulating. I also like writing in a style that is congruent with the way I talk. I try and make myself as clear and simple as I can, and as human.
4. What got you interested in delivering training?
When I was about 10 years down the line from my own training, I began to feel that I knew what I was doing. (Nina Coltart thought it took 10 years to make a therapist.) I started to feel that I wanted to share some of that experience and also to integrate into training some of the ways of thinking that I had found useful – attachment theory for example.
I thought that some of the existing trainings were out of date and wanted to see if I could develop training that took more account of new research.
I still feel the same way even though I’m no longer delivering training in a university. I want to pass on my understanding and also to do that in as light-hearted and engaging a way as I can manage.
5. If you weren’t a therapist, what would you be and why?
I’ve often thought about that. For many years my answer would have been a doctor. But then I have thought if I had been a doctor I would have wanted to be a psychiatrist and I’m not sure that medical model would have suited me. I am much more interested in finding meaning than in dispensing drugs.
These days I have got very interested in conservation and ecology, so I think I might have done something along those lines. My secret longing is to have a small-holding, but I think I’m too old now and will have to content myself with my half acre of garden and my four hens.
6. Tell us a bit about the workshop you are going to run on 12th November 2022
I know that lots of counsellors feel unprepared to deal with anything that looks like an eating disorder or disordered eating (eating behaviour that isn’t diagnosable but still troublesome and upsetting to the client). The aim of the workshop is to give you a way of thinking about problems with food which will help you decide how to work with the client. A lot of work with clients with eating problems is pretty random – let’s try this, let’s try that – but If you have a good understanding of what disordered eating is all about then you have a much better chance of helping the client.
My understanding is that the disordered eating is the sign and symptom of the problem, rather than the problem itself.
My understanding is that the disordered eating is the sign and symptom of the problem, rather than the problem itself, in the same way that compulsive drinking or shoplifting or hand-washing tells us that the client is distressed and not coping well. In general these strategies are used for emotional regulation, or you might say, as a coping mechanism. Clients have memories/thoughts/feelings/impulses that bother and upset them. Their coping method, in the case of disordered eating, their eating behaviour, is intended to protect them from whatever they can’t bear to think about or know. That could be their childhood experience; lots of people with disordered eating have childhood trauma in their history. It could be a desperate confusion about who they are and what they want. It could be a currently difficult situation such as an unhappy marriage. Whatever it is, the client hasn’t yet found a way of managing and is using food to try and help.
This way of thinking offers the counsellor a way forward but also offers the client the possibility of huge relief. At last s/he can understand behaviour that otherwise seems totally inexplicable and out of control. The workshop will develop these ideas further and offer a whole range of strategies for enabling the client to let her food obsessions go and deal with her difficulties in a way that is less damaging and more creative. By the time you have completed the workshop you should feel much more confident in working with this client group.
7. Where can people hear more from you? (eg, your own Blog, Website, Twitter, Email?)
Many thanks to Julia. For more information visit Julia Buckroyd’s speaker’s page.
Julia will be speaking at our upcoming event: Working Therapeutically with Disordered Eating (Saturday 12th November 2022, with catch-up, via Zoom).
Testimonials for Julia’s previous events
Julia offered a fantastic mix of learning. I loved the ideas of connecting more to feelings and body in positive ways.
Extremely informative and delivered in an engaging and manageable way. One of the best trainers I’ve had, so passionate, approachable and ‘human’.
Friday 1st March 2024. ONLINE via Zoom and CATCH-UP for 28 days. Event Times: 10.00am – 4.00pm GMT (London)/ 11.00am – 5.00pm CET (Paris)/ 5.00am – 11.00am EST (New York).…
Friday 22nd March 2024. ONLINE via Zoom and CATCH-UP for 28 days. Event Times: 10.00am – 4.00pm GMT (London)/ 11.00am – 5.00pm CET (Paris)/ 5.00am – 11.00am EST (New York).…
Friday 19th April 2024. ONLINE via Zoom and CATCH-UP for 28 days. Event Times: 10.00am – 4.00pm GMT (London)/ 11.00am – 5.00pm CET (Paris)/ 5.00am – 11.00am EST (New York).…
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