Sound Body, Sound Mind, The Burlington Free Press - Burlington, Vt. by Myra Mathis-Flynn
Bree Greenberg Benjamin, Pratyaagati Journey Home Program
Bree Greenberg Benjamin of Burlington is a licensed marriage and family therapist, which led to her calling as an instructor of the Pratyaagati Journey Home Program. Benjamin describes her innovative practice as an integrative treatment program for women and teenage girls that combines yoga and group therapy to treat eating disorders. Her psychotherapy private practice also treats teenage girls, women, couples and families.
What makes your practice unique? To my knowledge there has been no prior history of combining yoga as a treatment modality with psychotherapy for addressing eating disorders. Over the past six years I have used yoga in combination with therapy to provide a more effective and deeper treatment. Last year was the first year that I launched the formal Pratyaagati group treatment program. I have been in private clinical practice and teaching yoga for seven years and have been studying and practicing yoga for over 10 years.Would you consider your practice "holistic"? I really prefer the word "integrative" in application to what I do. I feel it describes the use of more traditional "talk" therapy with the so-called "holistic" approach of using the yoga for treatment.How does the treatment program work? Clients can come for one-on-one individual therapy or attend the treatment program. Individual clients are usually seen weekly initially and then decrease over time. The treatment program is three hours a week, with a two-hour commitment one evening and a one-hour commitment on another evening. Participants for the group this year are women 18 and over who are struggling with anorexia or bulimia.How did you get involved in this practice? In college I majored in both English and psychology and then of course went on to get the graduate degree in psychology. My path to yoga followed my own physical illness and helped me to recover both physically as well as from old emotional pain.How does this program differ from other eating disorder treatments? In addition to yoga being used as a form of therapy, this program attends to the absence of a clear, decisive sense of self that often appears in ED clients, as well as the emotional component. My goal is to work from the inside out. I am much less concerned about the ED behavior and much more concerned with what is going on for the client emotionally and how developed their connection is with their self. Additionally, this year the group will use the Internal Family Systems model, which has wonderful outcome studies with this population.How has the community responded? I have had so many people contact me for supervision and internship opportunities since this program began. It seems that right now our view of healing is rapidly changing and people are very open and responsive to treatments that integrate several modalities. Yoga is being tested for its effectiveness in treating everything from schizophrenia to rheumatoid arthritis. Everyone is always intrigued when it comes to the treatment of eating disorders because the population is so difficult to heal. I have been fortunate to have a very busy private practice in South Burlington. What changes should your clients expect to see in their physical or mental health? One of the best parts about the program is that it affects both physical and emotional symptoms since yoga has a profound healing effect on the body as well as the mind. There are so many positive outcomes from this combination: the ability to connect to feelings, sensations and breath in the body, a decrease in numbness, the ability to feel hunger and the compassion to respond to it, less internal chatter and clearer decision making, a decrease in feelings of shame and guilt and higher self worth and compassion for self.