Dr. Michelle Emmerling, Registered Psychologist

"Without awareness, we are not truly alive" 
~ James Bugental 

Dr. Emmerling has been fortunate to have had the opportunity to receive specialized professional training in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) and Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) for Eating Disorders from some of the world's leading experts.  She has spent the last 10 years researching and working in the eating disorder field using an EFT and EFFT framework with individuals, couples, families, and groups.  This way of working with eating disorders is promising, innovative, and offers a new perspective on how to address many of the concerns that underlie the development and maintenance of eating disorders and also general mental health. 

Click here to contact me for more information and/or for all inquires.  

Emotions and Eating Disorders

How do you deal with painful feelings? 

Numb them through starving? Push them down with bingeing? 

Rid yourself of them with purging? 

Do you "feel fat" and think you can only feel better by losing weight?

Eating disorders often develop as a way for people to manage difficult feelings that they can't solve directly.  These can be emotions like sadness, anger, loneliness, isolation, grief, or shame.  The eating disorder becomes a coping mechanism or solution to deal with these feelings or problems that can seem impossible to bear. 

The problem is that the coping mechanism (e.g., bingeing, purging, restricting, etc.) works and it works well.  It also has the added "bonus" of providing a sense of temporary relief.  Unfortunately the feelings soon return and must be "dealt with" all over again.  Trapped in this life-threatening cycle, this becomes the only way to cope. 

The biggest challenge is that the eating disorder soon takes over, making things much worse. 

You may have tried to stop the eating disorder behaviors in the past, only to find that stopping the behaviors meant facing the return of these painful and challenging emotions.  Unable to deal with the flood of feelings returning, you may have felt overwhelmed and relapsed back into the "safety" of your eating disorder. 

You may not be aware of how your feelings connect to your eating disorder symptoms or how your symptoms help you manage how you feel about yourself and your life.  Through therapy we can work on helping you find those connections and help you to gain control over your own life again.  

Please watch the video below to learn more about the importance of emotions and what we focus on in EFT. 

Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) for 

Eating Disorders 

Dr. Emmerling works actively with emotions, which involves experiencing your feelings or getting in touch with how you block feelings and seeing the effect this has on you.  Although this may seem overwhelming or scary right now, she will help in supporting and guiding you through this process.

This type of work involves learning about emotions and how they connect to eating disorders.  Emotions are an essential source of information and meaning. They are also a source of healing. When we pay attention to emotions they are like a beacon, leading us to what is important or what needs healing.

EFT is different from other therapies in that it seeks to resolve unpleasant emotions by working with them. It also focuses on "how" problems are produced (rather than just "why"). 

Dr. Emmerling ensures that a safe and supportive environment is in place before any emotional work begins.  The first phase involves bringing emotions into awareness, which is followed by learning to accept, understand, soothe, regulate, and alter them as needed. 

Many people who have done this type of therapy have found it to be effective for learning to connect with their emotions in healthy ways, while also gaining insight into their problematic behaviours and ways of coping. 

Click here for more information on EFT for eating disorders. 

Emotion Focused Family Therapy 


Using the Healing Power of Families to Treat 

Mental Health Concerns

Family-based therapy can also be an excellent format to treat eating disorders and other mental health concerns for individuals at any age.  Dr. Emmerling believes it can be very powerful for healing injuries, losses, and working through emotions. 

Briefly, it involves:

  • Behavioral physical recovery - if needed, having parents/significant others help the individual to interrupt their symptoms
  • Emotion coaching - helping parents/significant others to coach their loved one to figure out what they are feeling and what they need
  • Working through the challenging emotions that can be felt by parents/significant others and the individual that might get in the way of recovery or unintentionally maintain the mental health concern
  • Helping the family to heal emotional wounds, injuries, losses and move forward with new skills
This work can be done with parents/significant others and the individual or with just parents/significant others and without the individual that is suffering (e.g. they are in treatment in a hospital and not able to attend sessions).

Click here for more information on emotion focused family-based treatment