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From a Pea to a Pumpkin: A Prenatal Psychotherapy Group for Women with Eating Disorders

Saturday, March 21, 2015: 10:50 AM-12:20 PM
Salon A (Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort)

Background: Pregnancy is a unique experience for each woman. This presentation will address the conscious and unconscious expectations of pregnancy and motherhood paying specific attention to women who struggle or have dealt with an eating disorder. The significance and curative effects of talking about one's pregnancy experience will be the focus.

The Prenatal Conscious Scenario: Beginning to Speak of the Pregnancy Experience

a. Initiate dialogue among group members pertaining to their unique circumstances of becoming pregnant.

b. Create and contain the emotional and physical experiences of being pregnant for each group member.

c. Understand the possible ambivalence about the loss of not being pregnant as it pertains to each group member.

d. Provide validation about how to start to feeding the baby inside each pregnant member.

The Prenatal Unconscious Scenario: Beginning to Speak of the Unacceptable Pregnancy Experience

a. Explore the underlying psychic hunger that may be troubling group participants.

b. Help each participant gain insight and sensitivity about her mother’s early attachment and how it may effect her internalized expectations.

c. Clarify and empathize with participants disappointments, fears, anxieties and detachment. 

d. Attune to each participants potentiality of depressed mood and body dissatisfaction and provide a framework for therapeutic intervention.

The Curative Effects of Speaking about one’s Pregnancy Experience

a. Address maternal mental health and eating disorder concerns as they arise and assist participants in developing a deeper understanding and insight in the group setting.

b. Ameliorate anxieties and mood concerns and provide tools and group support to help participants gracefully navigate pregnancy and potentially the postpartum period.

c. Provide psycho-education via the group’s experiences about the art and science of attachment.

d. Offer a group community for the process of developing relationships as well as creating qualitative sustainable relationships throughout pregnancy and the  postpartum period. 

From a Pea to a Pumpkin: A Prenatal Psychotherapy Group Roleplay

a. Five volunteers will be given specific roles to play for a mock prenatal psychotherapy group.

b. The presenter will lead the group and will ask for a co-therapist volunteer.

c. The group will follow the didactic portion of the session to incorporate the ideas presented.

d. Each participant will have an opportunity to process their experience.

e. Each person in attendance will have an opportunity to process their experience. 

Pregnancy is a unique experience for each woman, in particular, women who have or continue to struggle with eating disorders. The purpose of developing a prenatal psychotherapy group is to provide a contained therapeutic community designed to meet the emotional and psychological needs of each group participant. Through the development of the therapy group, each member may find and offer support during her pregnancy experience as her life shifts and transitions. The group setting allows for the discovery of personal insights about how each participant’s emotional and psychological life is deeply connected to her developing baby and physical self. Through the process of group dynamics, each member can learn practical and emotional skills. The overarching psychodynamic principle at play in this particular group is the significance of speaking of one’s experience and the therapeutic benefits that derive from this process. The process of speaking and the feed back, validation and insight that may arise from the in-the-moment of group experience is one major goal. The secondary goal of speaking of one’s pregnancy experience is that of learning how to speak or continue to speak about one’s pregnancy experience. Having an innate capacity to not only feel and experience emotions and thoughts but also to speak of them freely and safely in a therapeutic environment may provide relief from debilitating emotional states, prevent more serious mental health concerns postpartum and enhance the attachment process between mother and infant. Furthermore, some women feel very alone during pregnancy and having a group to attend to, offer something to and be a part of in and of itself can be therapeutic and helpful.  

“A change gradually takes place in the feelings as well as in the body of the woman who has conceived. The direction of her interest turns from outward to inwards. She slowly but surely comes to believe that the center of the world is in her own body.”

. D. W. Winnicott

Primary Presenter:
Angela Wurtzel, MA, MFT, CEDS

Angela R. Wurtzel provides individual, couple and family therapy for the treatment of eating disorders, self injury and compulsive shopping. She leads From a Pea to a Pumpkin: A Prenatal Psychotherapy Group. Angela helps people contain behaviors that have gone awry and are interfering with one’s capacity for a full life. Her approach involves treating the psychological hunger disease through the process of putting one’s experiences related to emotional development and interpersonal relationships into words. She has a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist.

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