A cultural event featuring work by patients in art therapy for eating disorders demonstrates Israel’s leading expertise in the field of medical psychology.
The first-ever exhibit of works created by Israelis in art-therapy treatment for eating disorders was recently on display at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv, a favored venue for cultural events.
Dubbed “Tears of Color,” the exhibit features 30 paintings; each is accompanied by an explanation of the patient’s treatments and trials during their time at the Agam Institute for the treatment and rehabilitation of eating disorders.
Agam, a program at Reuth Medical and Rehabilitation Center – one of Israel’s leading institutions for rehabilitation and long-term care – is the largest outpatient service for this condition in central Israel.
Art Therapy is among the many treatments that Reuth (Hebrew for ‘friendship’) employs to help patients. Other treatments at Agam include, for example, psychiatric care, psychotherapy, nutritional guidance, psychodrama groups, art and movement therapies, cognitive and behavioral therapies, and family and group support.
In recent years, data collected in the field of eating disorders points to a “several-hundred-percent increase” in the number of girls suffering from an eating disorder, Dr. Yehuda Ninyo, medical psychologist and director of the Agam Institute, tells United with Israel.
The numbers continue to rise, he adds.
In Israel, the population between the ages of 12 and 25 is estimated at one-million, half of which are female, and approximately 10 percent of these women – 50,000 – suffer with eating disorders. The mortality rate for eating disorders is 10-17 percent and it increases the longer the problem exists, he says.
Art therapist Yehudit Arad works with patients suffering with bulimia, anorexia and extreme obesity. Contrary to popular opinion, the “glorifying of thinness” in modern Western society is only one reason for eating disorders, and it is not necessarily the most prevalent.
“There are other emotional issues that cause people to have an eating disorder,” she states.
“These are very intelligent people who can articulate their feelings very well,” Arad continues. However, they often cannot recall what they had admitted during therapeutic discussions with regard to their emotional challenges, which she attributes to a subconscious defense mechanism.
“It’s not good, because if they cannot remember, they cannot internalize it,” Arad says.
“But when they do art, I have the drawings and they cannot deny it. They cannot escape the reality. It’s better to face it and deal with it. This way, we can delve into it and get to the root of the problem and try to solve it.”
Art Therapy Utilizes Unique Expression
Each person uses his or her own unique methods of expression, which can be seen in the size of the images, colors and other drawing characteristics.
The paintings define, through color and shape, the nature of the coping and healing process, Arad explains.
“If there is a noticeable change in a person’s trend in drawing and how he or she works, that means that there is an internal change, for better or for worse. I am able to recognize it, and it slowly becomes our mutually unique language. Slowly, they begin to gain trust in me and are more and more willing to express their feelings. They learn to be more spontaneous in their work.”
The first art therapy exhibit has ended, however, another one will be on display at in the near future in Jerusalem at the Knesset – Israel’s parliament. The date has not yet been confirmed.
The inspiration for the exhibit was the remarkable success achieved by the patients over the course of art therapy, Dr. Ninyo says.
Written by Atara Beck,
Staff Writer/Editor, United with Israel