What can a client's male loved ones offer a therapist? More than you might think.
Last weekend, during a fascinating eating disorders conference at Monarch Cove in northern California, I heard therapist Nancy Albus, M.Ed., LPC, CEDS (CEO of Castlewood Treatment Centers) describe an intake interview she did with a woman seeking treatment for anorexia.
Like any wise eating disorders professional, Nancy asked the woman about her sexual history and current sexual relationships. The woman reported that she had regular and pleasurable sexual intercourse with her husband.
This was an unusual response, since people with anorexia usually have substantial hatred for their bodies—and, thus, usually struggle with sexual intimacy. But Nancy (who consistently honors her clients) took the woman’s word for it.
A week or so later, the client’s husband came in, and Nancy took him through an intake. When she asked, “Do you have a pleasurable sexual relationship with your wife?”, he replied, with irony and distress:
“If you call blackout curtains on the bedroom windows, every light turned off, and my wife keeping her clothes on ‘pleasurable, then I guess so.”
Of course, his perspective demonstrates how anorexia (and other eating disorders) distorts reality for those who have them. And, it also altered the therapist's perspective on the client she's working to heal.
What I appreciate most about this anecdote is Nancy’s acknowledgement of how valuable—even essential—it is for therapists and other professionals to engage with the men in a client’s family. His information about her client is information she needs—and which she can’t realistically get anywhere else.
Nancy’s story demonstrates that husbands, fathers, partners, and other male loved ones have important data that providers can use to treat clients more effectively—and find a clearer path to healing.
PS: follow Castlewood’s blog for continuing good perspectives on eating disorders.