Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jennifer Schurman: Finding the Right Questions

By Diana Hinojosa

As a marriage and family counselor at The Awakening Center, Jennifer Schurman encourages her clients to include family members in the process of their recovery by helping them create a space for them to communicate effectively.

“It is pretty powerful when you are able to see relationships repair, and having a family that is ready and willing to change can really impact the client in therapy,” says Jennifer.

Understanding that therapy should be about meeting the client where they are, and working from there, Jennifer has witnessed how much of an impact families can have on the rehabilitation process of the clients, specifically those with an eating disorder.

Having some friends that had experienced eating disorders, Jennifer found herself gravitating towards this with much intellectual curiosity that has now translated into trying to ask the “right questions” to her clients. She believes it is about being a part of the client’s life in a way that sometimes nobody else can.

Jennifer says, “There is not much about my job that is black and white, and there is never a day that is the same, but that is exactly why I love my job.”

Some of the most difficult parts of her job is acknowledging where the parents of her clients are coming from, while trying to reinforce their intentions. Trying to be the “healthy” voice in the room isn't always easy when trying to mediate the relationship between her client and their parent. Nevertheless, Jennifer feels very privileged to be working with her clients in their process to recovery.

She says, “I think the people that walk in here really want recovery. The biggest joy is watching a client find their voice, and seeing how their life changes, rather than having an eating disorder take over their identity.”

She enjoys being a part of The Awakening Center’s team because of the support she receives from the staff, especially when she feels like she needs to bring herself back from stressful situations.

She says, “While this work can be challenging, the significance of the work we do is so powerful. Being along with these clients in their journey is such a privilege and to know I can witness this is very rewarding. At The Awakening Center we all have our talents and bring something different, but we all want the same thing for our clients. We have the heart for it.”

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Breathe, Pause, Consider

Breathe, Pause, Consider

Having an eating disorder is like being a passenger in a rickety old school bus which is speeding down a winding mountain road at night in a blinding thunderstorm. The bus is careening off the guardrails with each turn and picking up speed as it goes along. If this wasn’t bad enough, notice there’s no driver on the bus!

Recovering is like making your way to the front of the bus and getting in the driver’s seat. Imagine with all your senses, feel it in your body as you make your way to the front of the bus. Experience sitting in the driver’s seat. What is the very first thing you would do in this situation?

You probably would reply, “Put my foot on the brake and stop the bus!”

Yes! Once the bus is stopped, you can sit there, as long as you need, to calmly make the decisions necessary to steer the bus to safety. Then, you can start to slowly drive the bus forward again.

An important tool towards recovery is as simple as taking a breath. In the momentary pause of that one breath we can step back and notice what’s going on. Then from our Self, from the place of peace and wisdom within us, we can consider our options –rather than from an emotional knee-jerk reaction.

Early in our lives, we learned to react to situations quickly, without thinking, to protect ourselves from getting hurt or getting in trouble. When these knee jerk reactions were successful, they were reinforced and became habitual. If when we were a child every time someone was angry we quickly tried to fix whatever was wrong, we will be conditioned to fix everyone’s problems as an adult. Not that fixing problems is bad or wrong, but if deep inside a young part of us frantically feels it is her responsibility to fix everything every time anyone is angry then we carry that anxiety and burden with us constantly.

We can practice taking a breath, pausing and considering until it becomes natural to us. Imagine a recent situation that where, in hindsight, you realize now that you felt like Life was racing down the mountain without a driver and you wish you had handled it differently. Maybe something that made your Parts react like in the old days. Now, take a deep breath, filling the bottom lobe of your lungs, holding it and then letting the breath out in a sigh. Repeat a few times until you feel a Pause – like Life has momentarily slowed down. In that Pause, feel yourself step into the wisdom of your Self; ask all your Parts to step back so your Inner Wisdom can see the situation objectively. Consider any and all options. It may help to ask, “What would my best friend do in this situation? What would I suggest to my best friend if the situation happened to her?” Then imagine yourself handling the situation using these suggestions from a place of peace and wisdom within.

I would love to hear your comments about trying this new tool.



Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC has written a book about recovery from eating disorders. She is in the process of finding a publisher! She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 11 or