Eating disorders are one of the most complex and most dangerous disorders due to their medical complications and the challenging thought processes which can increase the rate of suicide.Read More
Summer break is on the horizon, and for parents and caregivers, this means adapting to more downtime for adolescents. In preparation, it’s a good idea to reflect on how this will affect the family, and to develop a plan to implement the necessary changes.Read More
Clarity Counseling Center is a Wilmington, NC–based practice. Our “Meet the Therapists” series is intended to take a closer look into each therapist's background, values, experiences, and treatment orientation. In this series, we put therapists on the couch to learn who they are and why they do what they do. In this post, I'll be interviewing Clarity therapist Heather Biggerstaff.
Q: How did you first get interested in becoming a therapist?
A: I worked for a short time overseas in social services. When I returned to the States, I became a YMCA Youth Director for seven years. I loved playing group sports with the kids, but my favorite part of the job was working one-on-one with kids who were struggling with something, helping them to work through it. I knew my dodgeball days were numbered, and I longed to do more to help people achieve their goals on a personal level, so I enrolled in graduate school to study psychology. I’ve been a therapist for more than 10 years now, and I still can’t imagine a job that I could love more.
Q: What types of issues do you address and how?
A: I specialize in work with adolescents who are anxious, angry, lost, or stuck, trying to find their footing as they navigate who they are and who they wish to become. I am also passionate about offering therapy and support to the LGBTQ+ population, addressing barriers and stress specific to their journey.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your work?
A: I think the hardest part for me is setting personal boundaries. In the past, I often stretched my already-full schedule in order to squeeze in just one more client so I could meet their needs. But there was always someone else with their own needs standing right behind them waiting to get in, so I’d see them as well. The desire to help others is what drives me as a therapist, but it can be detrimental to my own well-being if I don’t set boundaries for myself.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work?
A: Watching clients begin to see things differently.
Q: What is your five-year plan?
A: I ventured away from outpatient therapy for a brief period and missed it immensely. I am happy to have returned and believe that in the next five years, I will continue to provide outpatient therapy, in addition to refining my skills, raising my children, and enjoying all that Wilmington has to offer.
Q: What is the most important thing to look for in a therapist?
A: I feel that personality and approach are by far the most important traits. Good therapy requires vulnerability. Clients should feel comfortable, validated, and safe in order to foster healthy and consistent movement toward goals.
Q: If every potential therapy client were reading this, what would you want to tell them?
A: There are many different types of therapist. Some are serious, structured, and lead the session; others are passive, meek, and allow clients to lead the session; and there are those in between. I fall somewhere in between so we can walk through your journey together. As a therapist, I am strengths-based, humor-infused, and call you out when I need to (in the nicest way). I have had great success with individuals from all walks of life, and I am not afraid of anything a client could ever tell me. After more than a decade working in mental health, I’ve probably heard it before anyway!
It’s officially spring, and before we know it, summer will be here. For some, this is a time to look forward to: no school, trips out of town, long days on the beach or at the pool, barbecues with family and friends. But for others, these same things may cause fear due to the related change in dress or eating in front of others, for example. Social media increases this anxiety by constantly telling us we need to have “the perfect beach body.”
Many individuals are concerned about their body weight, shape, and size. As summer approaches and we shed the winter layers, we become more vulnerable in our skin. Statistics show that 58% of college-age females find it necessary to maintain a certain weight, 62% of girls 13 to 19 are dissatisfied with their weight, and 69% of women over 30 say the same thing. And it’s not just females who are concerned about their weight: one in five males state that body image is one of their biggest concerns.
Body image is the subjective mental picture we have of our own body, the way we see ourselves, a belief that can be either healthy or unhealthy. This image may be shaped by childhood experiences, such as parents speaking negatively about their bodies, or being bullied about our own. Statistics suggest that 40% of females and 37% of males are bullied about their weight. Generalizations can also affect the way we view ourselves: comparing ourselves to friends, siblings, or celebrities, for example.
Maintaining a healthy body image is important, because body dissatisfaction can lead to both anxiety and depression. It is the leading cause of disordered eating and eating disorders, which affect 20 million women and 10 million men.
Here are some ways to help keep a healthy body image in warm weather:
1. Prepare for Social Gatherings
Social gatherings can be difficult for anyone. Often, we see family and friends we haven’t seen in a while, food options may differ from our daily norm, and the location might be at the beach or poolside.
a. Remember you were invited to the event because the host likes you, enjoys your company, and feels that the other guests will as well. People typically choose to spend time with another person because of their intellect, good conversation, humor, or caring personality, not for what they eat or how they look.
b. Challenge any negative thoughts that arise. Pick a friend or loved one to check in with during the event to discuss what you are experiencing.
c. Eat according to your own needs, which are different for everyone. Take portions appropriate for your adolescent or adult body. If you follow a special diet, scope the food choices and do the best you can with the food being offered. Another option is to pack something from home, maybe even bring extra to share.
d. Wear what you are comfortable in. Negative body image can keep you stuck indoors, missing out on picnics or fun at the beach. If you’re not comfortable in a bikini, then wear a cover up.
2. Know Your Stressors
Stressors such as a facial blemish, a new date, or finishing up that final assignment for school can increase negative body image. As our stress or anxiety increases, so do our thoughts. It amazing how many different thoughts we can have in just a single minute!
a. Increase mindfulness in your daily routine through practices such as meditation or yoga.
b. Post sticky notes around your bathroom mirror to remind yourself how amazing you are!
c. Develop a balanced exercise program with guidance from your primary care physician.
d. Reach out to a therapist.
3. Manage Your Social Media Usage
A recent article states that 95 million photos are posted on Instagram daily. On average, teens are currently spending more than eight hours per day on social media, which can play a role into self beliefs related to body image. Posts often include photos with filters applied and are intended to sell you something, directly or indirectly. They pinpoint an aspect of yourself in which you lack confidence and make you believe their product will change that.
a. Put away your phone or commit to not checking your social media accounts for an entire day. If that’s too daunting, try 15 minutes at a time. Leave the phone in another room and enjoy the event you’re at and the people you’re spending time with there.
b. Combat negative posts. If someone is body bashing, take a stance and stand up for positive self-talk, healthy body image, or advocate for self.
Remember, body image is how you see your own body. Take time to thank your body for the gifts it has given you: allowing you to work, hug others, or play sports. Stop the self-bullying! When warm weather hits, the best outfit to put on is self-confidence: your body loves it.
Bagadiya, J. (2019). 217 Social Media Marketing Statistics to Prep You For 2019. Retrieved from https://www.socialpilot.co/blog/social-media-statistics
Garner, D. (2017). Plagued by Body Image Issues? The Results of a National Survey Show You're Not Alone. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199702/body-image-in-america-survey-results
National Eating Disorder Association. Body Image and Eating Disorders. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Sandoz, E. K., & DuFrene, T. (2014). Living with your body and other things you hate: How to let go of your struggle with body image using acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Taylor, J.V. (2014). The body image workbook for teens. Oakland, CA: An Imprint of New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Tsukayama, H. (2015). Teens spend nearly nine hours every day consuming media. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com
The years of adolescence are a time for children to establish independence from their parents, learn new concepts and skills, and claim an identity to help with transition into adulthood. This is a period of significant, and sometimes rapid, growth on many levels, which can be difficult to cope with for all parties involved. In 1904, the first psychologist to formally study adolescence framed it as a period of “storm and stress,” a view that still resonates with modern research on the now popular subject.Read More