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Compassion: An Ingredient to Eating Disorder Recovery

Elisha Contner Wilkins, MS, LMFT, CEDS-S, Executive Director of Veritas Collaborative’s Child, Adolescent & Adult Center in Richmond, VA, contributed her thoughts on the benefits of compassion in eating disorder treatment and recovery in the book Hope for Recovery: Stories of Healing from Eating Disorders. Elisha delves deeper into the importance of practicing compassion when treating individuals with eating disorders.

Compassion to me is grace, kindness, patience, and motivation. Compassion helps us to relate to and identify with our patients. Connecting with others leads to increased motivation to help the other person achieve their goals as it relates to self-actualization or towards full recovery. A mentor of mine once shared that in order to experience an authentic therapeutic relationship with a patient, we must find one thing we value and appreciate about that individual. This has always been at the core of my therapeutic work with patients.

To do the kind of work that we do, we must have compassion. Compassion has also been shown to improve outcomes in healthcare and to improve one’s relationship with his or her healthcare provider. Providers must learn to regulate their own boundaries so as not to experience compassion fatigue.

Self-compassion is often the precursor to demonstrating compassion towards others. When we can demonstrate compassion towards ourselves, we model that for our teams and for our patients. It shows up when we say “I should have looked at this differently” and we have the ability to recognize that we are doing the best that we can and can give ourselves grace.

Compassion is showing up in an empathic way for a patient and for a family.

Compassion is being with the individual and saying “yes, I get it. . . I can relate to that” versus feeling sorry.

Compassion is showing the individual the path to recovery and providing them with the tools to start the journey versus doing it for them.

Everything that we do at our hospitals and centers models real life for our patients around us. Whether showing compassion towards a teammate or compassion towards a patient, we are role-modeling this core value for our patients who may not have had role models of this very important humanistic trait.

To read Elisha’s chapter, Compassion: An Ingredient to Eating Disorder Recovery, in Hope for Recovery: Stories of Healing from Eating Disorders, click here.

About Elisha Contner Wilkins

Elisha Contner Wilkins, MS, LMFT, CEDS-S, is the Executive Director of Veritas Collaborative’s Child, Adolescent & Adult Center in Richmond, VA. She has over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults and families as a marriage and family therapist and a specialist in eating disorders