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Body & Soul: Group Therapy at Monte Nido

Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia Primary Therapist Kate Funk shares an inside look at the Body & Soul Group she runs with her clients. Kate discusses what group therapy looks like at EDCPA and how she supports clients in discovering their soul self.

No matter how long one has been struggling with an eating disorder, one thing is for certain; it is an all-consuming experience. Having an eating disorder means one’s true self takes a back seat to the pain and suffering of an exhausting, relentless, and deadly illness. Many of our clients struggle to imagine what life might look like outside of food, calories, and exercise, and often identify themselves with their unhealthy behaviors. Leaving the eating disordered behaviors behind can be scary enough, let alone saying goodbye to their identity and journeying into the unknown. This is a terrifying task for most of our clients.

At Monte Nido, we believe all clients have two selves; their eating disorder self and their soul self. The healthy self is the compassionate, loving, true self that is our natural state when no longer preoccupied with food, body, and fear. We believe that a client’s healthy self will heal their eating disorder self, and thus embracing and cultivating one’s soul self is at the heart of our philosophy. As staff, we work to help clients distinguish the two. One way to do this is by asking clients what support or response would they give a close friend or loved one undergoing a similar experience. We find it is much easier for clients to connect with their soul selves when trying to help others then it is when trying to help them selves. Our Body & Soul group strengthens this concept by challenging clients to “leave their eating disorder at the door.” We ask clients to step away from their eating disorders for at least one hour and tap into the things that make them much more than their body and encompass their soul.

Body & Soul is an essential part of Monte Nido treatment across our facilities.  Once a week we utilize this group to highlight the importance of cultivating clients’ soul selves and help inspire them to grow closer to who they are and take tiny steps away from their eating disordered identity. At Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, intern Alex Smith and therapist Kate Funk follow a format that helps clients put their day on pause and dig deep to get in touch with who they truly are. We utilize specific Monte Nido traditions, meditations, and carefully crafted ambiance complete with soulful music and a candle lit room to create inspiration and healing. To explore the group a bit further, Kate and Alex sat down with a few questions for each other.

Kate, why do you choose to use the same traditions and format in group each week?

“Treatment has so many ups and downs for clients and we are constantly challenging them to give up and let go of so many parts of their normal routines. I find having a similar routine can help clients feel safe and know what’s expected of them. Having candles, music, meditation, and angel cards each week helps clients ground and feel a sense of confidence in what to expect. Despite clients often believing meditation or mindfulness is silly and sometimes thinking creating a healthy identity is impossible they are going to explore the concepts and step away from their disorders for that hour.”

Alex, tell us about your use of meditation in each body and soul group:

“Anxiety, rumination, and ‘future-tripping’ often impede a client’s ability to remain present and connect with their authentic self. An increasing body of research has highlighted the efficacy of mindfulness meditation and its impact on parts of the brain responsible for anxiety and stress. Meditating gives clients a chance to practice detaching from the incessant chatter of the eating disorder, become present, and get in touch with a deeper part of themselves. A common misconception about meditation is that the goal is to stop all thoughts. It’s not! Thoughts are a part of meditation, so the goal is to be able to let them come and go without getting attached to them. I customize my guided meditations for each Body & Soul session, depending on what clients are struggling with that day and what I think might be helpful. By blending deep breathing, guided imagery, and positive affirmations, I aim to create a safe space for clients to remember that they are more than their eating disorder”.

Kate, how does Body & Soul connect to the rest of the treatment experience at Monte Nido?

“The eating disorder self becomes incredibly strong throughout the duration of the eating disorder. Throughout treatment we are trying to strengthen the healthy self in order to help the client put the eating disorder self out of business. We work on this skill weekly in body and soul but it is a common thread in all of the Monte Nido groups and assignments. As staff we are always looking at opportunities to strengthen the soul self and help the clients see who they are outside of their eating disorders. We believe that the more the client is in touch with their soul self, the more their eating disorder self becomes obsolete.”

Alex, how would you describe the feeling of Body & Soul versus other groups at EDCPA?

“I believe that Body & Soul is a sacred group and it feels like a mini-retreat for the spirit. It gives both clients and staff a chance to remember who we are beyond any labels or limitations. The candle-lit glow, soul-full music, and Monte Nido traditions give clients a chance to explore a side of themselves that they may not get to otherwise. Instead of processing emotions and learning new skills, Body & Soul lets clients explore other aspects of their identity. In this group, I see our clients “lifting the veil” and remembering or discovering sources of joy, inspiration, and self-love that have been clouded or blocked entirely by their eating disorder. It’s a joy and privilege to see the light of our amazing clients begin to shine through”.


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