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From a Psychotherapist to RMTs: Eating Disorders Sensitivity and Need to Knows

Last month I reached out into the community to connect with psychotherapists in the Hamilton area and learn more about caring for people living at the cross roads of mental health struggles and physical health struggles. Victoria Emanuele reached back and took the time to answer some questions I and other RMTs have expressed about eating disorders. See her answers below and get in touch with her at the contact information at the end.

What do you think RMTs should know re: eating disorders?

It’s important to know that they are complex disorders - they don’t look a certain way or impact a certain group of people. Like all mental health conditions, we can never make assumptions.

If an RMT suspects a client may have a trouble relationship with food or body image, what would be a good way to express those concerns and connect them to a psychotherapist who works with those disorders?

A nice way to address any concerns might be to acknowledge your limitations as an RMT and let the client know that if they are interested in exploring their thoughts or feelings more, they can refer them to a psychotherapist. Again, it’s important to not assume and only suggest this if the client is clearly expressing difficulty.

What should RMTs avoid talking about with clients who may have eating disorders? What should we be sensitive to?

It’s important to stay away from discussing diets, weight/weight loss, calories, specific body types, and maybe even types of foods and food groups. Even when meant as a compliment or in a positive way, don’t comment on clients' bodies. Keep in mind that coming to a massage is a vulnerable experience for some - follow their lead with what they’re comfortable with.

In RMT treatment rooms it is very common for people to apologize for their bodies. What would the best way to respond be?

I would suggest reminding clients that you hold a safe, non-judgemental space where they are accepted for showing up as they are.

What is the difference between body positivity and body neutrality?

Body positivity means accepting all bodies, while challenging the beauty standards that society has placed on us. Body positivity encourages us to love our bodies and believe our bodies are beautiful - this may seem unrealistic or unachievable at times, especially if we’re coming from a place of being really hard on ourselves. This is when body neutrality can be really powerful; it reminds us that we don’t have to feel super positive about our bodies all the time to be able to recognize all the things it does, and the normal changes it goes through. Body neutrality is more about acceptance and self-compassion.

Victoria Emanuele is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) in Hamilton, ON, specializing in eating disorders and body image issues. She’s passionate about helping people live their most authentic lives. You can learn more about her services at 

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