Press Release, 2004
Abigail H. Natenshon Combines the
and Anat Baniel Method
with Traditional Psychotherapy to Treat Eating Disorders
Abigail H. Natenshon, MA, LCSW, GCFP,
psychotherapist and author of
When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and
Other Caregivers, and
Doing What Works: an Integrative System for the Treatment of Eating Disorders
from Diagnosis to Recovery has combined her expertise in the field of eating
disorder treatment with mastery in the work of Moshe Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel
as a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.
Eating disorders render their victims out
of touch with what has become a fragmented core self. The Feldenkrais Method
© and Anat Baniel Method©
based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais have been proven to facilitate personal
self-awareness on a profound bodily/sensory level, offering increased options
for personal change and problem solving. Through attention and differentiation,
gentle and pleasurable movements awaken the brain to sensory awareness,
challenging individuals to move beyond habitual patterns of behavior and thought
in taking action in the world, and promoting access to a unified sense of mind,
body and self.
By rectifying distortions in self perception in individuals with eating
disorders and body image concerns, these forms of somatic education
make it possible for individuals in "emotional exile" to directly access aspects
of the core self through self-awareness and self-acceptance, all within the
confines of a single 45 minute "lesson." According to Moshe Feldenkrais, "We
must know what we do, in order to do what we want." Embedded in the movement
lessons are general strategies for what Moshe Feldenkrais calls "learning how to
Roger Russell (2004) describes the development of the self as
being "grounded in kinesthetic experience. Our movement, interwoven into
the fabric of our self image from the beginning of our lives, plays an extensive
role in how the nervous system coordinates a coherent sense of self through the
life span. By teaching students to experience the interrelationships between
moving, thinking, feeling and sensing," the Feldenkrais Method offers entrance
to the "ground floor" of our sense of self." The Feldenkrais work expands the
discovery of unrecognized feelings, of different options for taking action, and
of alternative thinking that leads to more creative and effective
problem-solving. Through this technique, "black-and-white" thinkers begin to
recognize shades of gray. Anxiety held in contracted muscles melts away, as do
harmful compulsive and habitual behaviors and attitudes, to be replaced by "can
do" feelings of empowerment. Hard-to-treat patients who have suffered from
eating disorders, body image disturbances and mood disturbances for decades
report relief from compulsivity in behaviors and thought, diminished depression,
and a new-found capacity for self-determination and self-control." (1)
How these methods work
- By optimizing our skeletal structure and function in movement
within our own gravitational field, we create and recreate who we are,
facilitating empowerment and an esteemed sense of well-being and optimistic
- The Feldenkrais method teaches us how to learn, in offering
individuals the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning.
- Accessing the brain uniquely, experientially, the method
provides a novel, potent and pure form of learning that adults may not have
experienced since infancy, or ever before.
- Through organizing the nervous system, we learn to become aware
of ourselves in ways that have not yet been available to us. Obese individuals
who typically abhor bodily movement and who frequently experience human touch to
be painful as a result of swelling in the tissues, in doing this work can
experience a graceful, astonishing feather-lightness and freedom from
constraints in their function that is for many a wholly unique and liberating
- With improvements in physical movements, come improvements in
our lives emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Through the potency of
the connection between mind and the body, as a person upgrades his or her
physical structure and function, so it goes with brain function, structure,
chemical composition and mood. Posture manifests the internal dialogue, even
while creating it. Muscles hold our tensions, as well as mood, so much so that a
person may not be able to elicit or let go of emotions fully unless the posture
parallels the change.
- Experiencing physical differences and change can also become the
basis for metaphorical learning, giving people access to emotional options,
opportunities and possibilities as well.
- Lastly, the Method is about self-improvement and it is for
everyone. It applies to any person who rolls out of bed in the morning, who gets
up out of a chair, who swings a golf club, or breathes. A person needs not be in
pain to benefit from the work.
Feldenkrais and Baniel Methods: their connection to psychotherapy and eating
The Methods share an immense affinity in language, ideas, and
concepts to those of clinical psychotherapy. By encouraging eating disordered
patients to engage in this form of somatic education as an adjunct treatment
resource, eating disorder clinicians further the patient"s self-awareness and
self-acceptance, evoking the capacity for self-regulation and
self-determination, all of which are hallmarks of eating disorder recovery.
- Like psychotherapy, these methods are
about learning and change.
- The body is understood to be a system which functions best with
all parts articulated and integrated.
- The therapist starts where patient is, going with the system,
- The work achieves structurally, tangibly, and palpably what
cognitive treatment strives to achieve through talk and thought alone. The
Method goes beyond providing the patient opportunity; it "delivers" opportunity"
behaviorally, experientially. This is a concept that deserves further
exploration in formal research.
- Psychotherapy relies on the same qualities of self-awareness,
differentiation and re-integration to achieve wholeness and optimize change in
the realm of feeling and emotion. It parallels the task of eating disorder
treatment, in integrating the anorexic self with the healthy self.
- By accessing the patient"s core self, we affect sensing,
thinking and perception. By affecting sensing, thinking and perception, we
access the core self.
- Moshe Feldenkrais defines maturity as emotional flexibility, a
concept that is antithetical to the very existence of an eating disorder.
- Though the method adheres to the language of psychotherapy, one
of the most unique and invaluable aspects of this work are that it bypasses the
NEED for the limiting language of traditional talk therapy.
- With psychotherapy, too frequently the patient"s "story," the
old "tapes," gets told and retold and retold again. The uniqueness of the
Feldenkrais and Baniel Methods is in the novelty of "changing the ending" with
- In the realm of pure emotion, a person generally cannot hold
onto feelings of optimism because humans do not exist in a static state. The
self-help process represents a continuing process of autonomous shifting out of
old habits and into useful new ones in creating and recreating an image of
- For people who seek bodily solutions to express what they feel
(such as purging, starvation, substance abuse, or cutting), the expression of
feelings is better served by this form of rootedness in reproducible, healthful
and concrete movement.
Russell, R: .An introduction for the Feldenkrais conference, Movement and
the development of sense of self Feldenkrais conference, Seattle, WA 2004.
Eating disorder group therapy
is available to individuals seeking the integrative, experiential mind/body work
of Anat Baniel Method" / Feldenkrais Method".
Read Abbie"s article about
The Feldenkrais Method " and Anat Baniel Method " in the Treatment of Eating
Disorders, published in the Feldenkrais Educational Foundation of North
America SenseAbility Newsletter.
For further information, read:
The Therapeutic Effects of the Feldenkrais Method "Awareness
Through Movement" in Patients with Eating Disorders
by Laumer U, Bauer M, Fichter M, Milz H University at Regensburg.
Eating disorder group therapy is available to individuals seeking
the integrative, experiential mind/body work of Anat Baniel Method© /
Feldenkrais Method©. This form of somatic education, when used as adjunct
treatment in combination with more traditional approaches, by providing
integrative movement with attention, enables autonomous shifting out of old
habits and into useful new ones. It facilitates learning “from the inside out;”
enhancing sensory-awareness and re-integrating neurological function that goes
far to re-create a core sense of self. (Read Abbie’s article,
The Feldenkrais Method © and Anat Baniel Method © in the Treatment of Eating
Disorders, published in the Feldenkrais Educational Foundation of North
SenseAbility Newsletter,Spring 2011, pages 8-9.