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4 posts from November 2009


A personal note from Sandee Nebel, LMHC

This is a photo of Tara and Joe welcoming visitors to our exhibit table at a recent Florida School Counselors Association event. We do a lot of work with local schools, shedding light on the challenging subject of eating disorders and giving teachers and families somewhere to turn when they see a young person struggling.

We also reach out to those young people, as we did on Wednesday, November 4th at Trinity Preparatory School. I co-led a presentation with Candace Chemtob, licensed dietician, carefully designed to educate young girls about healthy nutrition and eating disorders without triggering extreme behaviors. We also brought two young women who beautifully shared their stories and personal recovery triumphs.

At the White Picket Fence Counseling Center, we are committed to helping our community and providing support and resources for those struggling with eating issues. You can read about other recent and upcoming events below.

Helping others is a natural theme to explore in November, as we did last year. The holidays are approaching and we're all thinking more about what we're grateful for.

There are always so many ways to help others. But is there a right way and a wrong way to help? That's what we're exploring in today's feature article.

P.S. By the way, did you know that we now have an archive of newsletters posted for you online? Visit to read through previous articles or search for a particular topic.
Best regards,

Feature article: Is there a wrong way to help someone?

When we see someone else struggling, our natural response is often to try to fix them or make them feel better. We are uncomfortable in the presence of someone else's suffering.

But by rushing too quickly to hand out a tissue (which stops the flow of tears) or correct someone who makes a critical statement about themselves (which denies their feelings), you might be doing more harm than good.

Therapy group members often try to rescue and relieve each other from moments of pain by giving advice or providing comfort. Other times, we notice people just kind of "zoning out" when someone else is expressing their pain, because it just feels too awkward and uncomfortable.

In families, this issue becomes even more complex. Parents feel responsible for their children - isn't it their job to shelter and rescue their child from pain? This can become an all-encompassing quest that is not healthy for either person.

So just how do you help someone else without losing yourself, and when should you stop helping so you don't lose the other person?

Whether it's a serious issue like an eating disorder, or a temporary reaction to a specific situation, encourage the person to seek out help and support from a professional.  When it's clear that it's someone else's job to help your loved one heal, you can concentrate on supporting them through the process. Supporting someone is a beautiful way to help.

How to support? Often it means not having the answers or the right words or even any words at all. It means simply listening, witnessing what the person is experiencing, even when it's painful, uncomfortable, or extremely negative stuff. If you can validate their feelings and just let them be, you're helping them process and heal.

By strengthening your own capacity for this discomfort, you will also experience your own emotional growth. You'll be better able to tolerate and process your own uncomfortable, negative feelings - without using disordered eating or other harmful behaviors.

This important self-care strategy will improve your relationships and make sure they don't drain you. You don't have to take care of or rescue anyone else - your goal is to treat yourself (as I very often share with my clients!) and others with kindness and compassion, and to speak the truth.

If you're really struggling with how to handle someone else's problems, then consider some counseling or therapy for yourself as well. One-on-one personal guidance goes a long way towards helping you deal with this situation.

Recommended Resources

Distorted is an excellent book about the complex dynamic of a family dealing with an eating disorder. It was written by mother and daughter Lorri and Taryn Benson, who share their actual experiences with the daughter's anorexia and bulimia.
Al-anon ( is a helpful resource, whether the person you are trying to help has an eating disorder, is an alcoholic, or has another issue. They also have a daily meditation book, Courage to Change.

We also recommend the following books to families dealing with an eating disorder:

Why She Feels Fat by McShane and Paulson
Surviving an Eating Disorder by Siegel and Brisman
Talking to Eating Disorders by Heaton and Strauss

Upcoming and Recent Events

I recently participated in an interview with radio host Jon Pavano on Sunny 105.9's Sunny Across Central Florida show. You can listen to the two-part episode by clicking the links below.

Part 1:
Part 2:

On November 6th I presented at a meeting of the Mental Health Counselors of Central Florida on the topic of: Therapeutic Tools in Working with Obese and Overweight Clients.
Next four week anorexia and bulimia recovery group starts Tuesday, November 24th, 5-6:30pm.  Please contact Liz Strong or Sandee Nebel via the website to join.