Dr Elise Curry is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who has been working in the field as a psychologist since 2002. Her specialties include: Mindfulness based Cognitive therapy, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, coming out issues, as well as anxiety and depression. Back in 2001, Dr Curry helped to start Sharp Mesa Vista’s eating disorder program for patients who suffered from anorexia and bulimia. After 4 years at Sharp as the program manager she accepted a position at UCSD to help them start their outpatient eating disorder program. She designed the IOP and was the program manager from 2005 to 2009. In 2009, she accepted a position as a staff psychologist at UCSD’s Counseling and Psychological Services where she worked for 9 years treating college students with a variety of issues. During this time, she designed and led a group for students called Mindfulness for Daily Living, which was one of the most popular drop-in groups on campus for undergraduate and graduate students. She also spent one year training at the UCSD OCD clinic with Dr Sanjaya Saxena and developed a specialty in OCD treatment. She used this training at CAPS to provide short-term OCD treatment for many students.
In addition, Dr Curry is a certified trainer for Mindful Self-Compassion workshops. She was trained by Kristin Neff PhD and Christopher Germer PhD at their week-long training in Sedona, Arizona back in 2016. She led an 8 week training for the staff at UCSD Counseling and Psychological Services during summer session 2016. For the past 2 Spring terms Dr Curry has taught a class at UCSD entitled: The Science and Practice of Mindfulness. This was a 1 credit class which gave students in class experience with Mindfulness Meditation and also exposed them to the large body of research on Mindfulness and the Brain.
Currently, Dr Curry is in private practice seeing a variety of clients and taking time for her many hobbies which include sailing, golfing, and theater. She has been a daily meditator for the past 18 years and is a practicing Buddhist.
Let’s start with the first arrow. There is a story that Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh tells about pain and suffering. The first arrow is what happens to us: our friend dies, our partner leaves us, we get laid off from our job, we get a life-threatening diagnosis. We all have first arrow problems which can hit us at any moment. This is our pain as human beings living with uncertainty and a lack of control.
The second arrow is what we do to ourselves. We say “Why is this happening to me? This is so unfair.” We blame ourselves and others for our circumstances. We may even slip into a depression or become anxious and unable to sleep at night.
Unlike the first arrow, we can do something about the second arrow. We can pull it out! By practicing mindfulness and patient acceptance we can come to see our problems as opportunities for accelerated personal growth. We can stop beating ourselves up for mistakes we made and becoming angry with other people who did not treat us the way we wanted them to. We can let go of the second arrow, which is the beginning of growth and transformation.
The therapy I provide to my clients is directed mostly at the second arrow. Of course, it is important to acknowledge and work through the first arrow pain. By also working to eliminate second arrow suffering, the process of healing can move forward more quickly. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
While there is no single cause or origin of these complex disorders, there are a number of contributing genetic, emotional, developmental, psychological, and social factors. The interplay between these diverse factors can manifest as eating disorder symptoms when catalyzed by maladaptive emotional responses to stressors. A client may find relative “comfort” from difficult or intolerable emotions by isolating and controlling their food intake. Such symptoms may take the form of restricting, bingeing, fasting, over-exercising, or binge-purging. If untreated, those unhealthy coping devices become serious problems unto themselves; the consequences of which can be life-threatening.
Just as each individual client is unique, so are their eating disorder symptoms, and so too is their path to recovery. I take a transdiagnostic approach to healing. I used evidence-based practices, working directly with clients to identify emotional factors that contribute to their unhealthy coping strategies. My approach is supportive, yet directive when needed.
I’ve found that the most effective treatment involves a more holistic understanding of the interplay between a client’s eating disorder, emotional response behaviors, and any comorbid disorder(s). In better understanding the underlying factors that drive the eating disorder symptoms, a client can begin to see long-term recovery as a reality.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses. Early eating disorder intervention is strongly correlated with positive treatment outcomes. If treatment is postponed, the eating disorder and symptoms can become chronic, and even life-threatening. The longer an eating disorder progresses, the more challenging it is to treat. Thus, it is critical that an individual with an eating disorder finds treatment as soon as possible.
CULTIVATING A SUPPORT SYSTEM:
The involvement of parents and/or close loved ones is often crucial to getting the person with an eating disorder into treatment. Relationships and connection are critical for their recovery. However, not everyone within a client’s support system has the education or tools to reach out effectively.
I offer consultation services to family members and those in positions of support who are concerned about their loved one and want to offer help, but who may need better training and education on best practices. Together, we work to develop an effective and caring approach to encouraging their loved one to seek treatment.
HOLISTIC PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC APPROACH:
There are many levels of care for eating disorder treatment. Similarly, there are many components and factors that determine positive prognostic outcomes.
A thorough in-person assessment is first needed to determine which level of care is best for the individual client. I provide this assessment during the first couple of sessions. Depending upon the degree of severity and progress of a client’s eating disorder, I may find that a client’s symptoms or overall health are too severe to treat in a traditional outpatient setting. In such instances, I can provide referrals for a partial hospitalization program, an in-patient eating disorder program, or an intensive outpatient program (IOP).
If outpatient individual therapy is a suitable approach based on the client’s health and symptom progression, I work with the client one-on-one to tailor a holistic psychotherapeutic treatment plan toward healing using the following tools:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to address distorted beliefs and self-image
- Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy to help clients with emotional regulation skills
- Teaching clients to use meditation practices and Mindful Self-Compassion to address their tendency toward self-criticism and self-loathing
- Developing a practical toolkit to assist clients with coping skills to manage stressors and intense emotions in their everyday lives
- Practicing goal-setting with the client, and soliciting input and encouragement (when appropriate) from people in the client’s support system
- Working with a registered dietitian while in treatment to ensure the client learns healthier attitudes and habits to eat normally again
- If medication could be helpful, I will refer a client for psychiatric consultation.
I have worked in this field directly with clients with eating disorders for nearly 30 years. I’ve learned a great deal from the feedback from clients, their families/loved ones, and other professionals in the field. I’ve used their objective assessments to continually grow and evolve my practice, and to improve my services.
Over the years, I’ve worked with clients who reported feeling that their lives had been stolen from them by their eating disorders. Taking the first step to seek treatment can be challenging and painful. However, I have also seen a great many clients take back their lives from their eating disorders. They’ve been able to fully recover, and go on to live healthy, productive lives. Recovery is not only possible, it may just be the most rewarding thing a client can do for themselves.