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Face time

Posted Nov 15 2010 6:33pm
No hyperbole: I had an amazing time at the Renfrew conference. This may seem obvious and I don't want to lapse into any fluffy bunnies and butterflies here, but it's all about relationships. (Duh.)

I have said pretty much the same thing over and over for eight years**. So much so that I'm tired of hearing it. I've said these things in any way available: mostly written - in a book, articles, blog posts, web sites, online forums. I've given presentations, pretty much to anyone who would have me. I've volunteered and shown up and gotten involved. But I underestimated something critical: this is a field that centers on psychotherapists and psychotherapists are 'people people,' obviously. The tools of the trade, the power of the work, things that bring someone TO the field are interpersonal, intuitive, and deeply personal. That's why we NEED and value therapists and why we should get on  knees in gratitude that they do what they do - since most of us just don't have that skill set - I don't! Yet what makes therapists good at what they do also makes it very difficult to suggest they change for reasons like "data."

"You're not like I thought." I heard this in various versions this weekend. Mind you, some of these are people I've been seeing a few times a year for years. But this time I was on their turf.

The same went for what I was saying. It turns out that many people had formed opinions on me and on my views about parents and about the Maudsley approach that simply weren't true. Few of them had read anything I'd written. Very few of those in the ED leadership have, of course. Many, no, almost all opinions on Maudsley came from people who hadn't had any training in it. When they actually heard directly from me, in person, stuff I've said all along - they were surprised and interested.

A few people said they were now going to go get real Maudsley training. Some said they were going to re-think some of the things they say to families and some of their website content. That is all I want.

One gentleman said he found me rigid and extreme in my attitudes before, but sitting at dinner what I was saying didn't sound so fanatical. I think this is because the tool of MY trade, words, have to stand alone. People have to come to you, and want to. But in this world, without actual relationships and face to face trust, words are insufficient and won't do on their own.

It has taken a lot of work and time to get the opportunity, and the mutual trust, to have these conversations. I've thought of giving up in anger and frustration and burnout more than once. But this weekend was both humbling and a huge honor. I was moved by the sincerity and warmth and, yes, openness, that I encountered.

I want to give my greatest thanks, however, to my co-presenter, Dr. Judith Banker. How kind of her to invite me, and how generous of her to spend the time she did not just working on the details but talking about the ways we all think and speak and feel about this. I learned more from her these past few months about the realities of our mutual interests than in a long time before. Things are changing, and to the good, and Judy has my admiration and gratitude.


**Parents don't cause eating disorders
**Parents can be an important part of treatment
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