Sacred Circles: Feminist-Oriented Group Therapy for Adolescents With Eating Disorders
Beth Hartman McGilley, Ph.D., FAED
Feminist-oriented group therapy for eating-disordered adolescents attempts to identify, address, and eradicate the embodiment of oppressive physical, social, and political forces by providing sacred healing grounds within which self-awareness and transformation can occur. Unlearning of silence, starvation, and solitude, the sanctioned developmental milestones in Western girls’ adolescence, is fostered by creating “alternative relational and dialogical spaces” (Piran, Jasper, & Pinhas, 2004). Communication and creative resilience strengthen when safety and respect are experienced in the context of the therapeutic group relationship. Group therapy emerged as a mainstream therapeutic medium in the 1940s, and its practice has undergone radical transformations while its benefits have been widely applauded. Significant changes in group practices have mostly occurred in “front characteristics,” such as the structure, membership, content, leadership style, duration, setting, and theoretical orientation, whereas the core elements of group therapy, the “bare-boned mechanics of change” have demonstrated remarkable constancy (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005, p. xiii). This chapter highlights these essential group elements, provides a brief overview of fundamental feminist-oriented therapeutic concepts and illustrates the integration of these core features within the “lived experiences” of adolescent girls in an eating disorders recovery group.