Natalie Graham counsellor and psychotherapist

I have had a long involvement in the health industry having worked as a physiotherapist since 2006. I hold a first class honours degree in psychology and have received various scholarships in association with my psychology studies. I am curently undertaking a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Research and additional education …

My psychology honours thesis explored the role of attachment styles and emotional invalidation across different eating disorder profiles (binge eating, anorexia, bulimia and binge-purge anorexia). Emotional invalidation specifically explored a spectrum of parental responses ranging from overt and harsh (including anger and punishment), indifference (parents ignoring or refuting particular feelings) and lack of emotional support (whereby participants were not confident their parents could help them with their feelings and didn’t feel it was safe to talk about their feelings). A lack of emotional support was common across all the eating disorder profiles. In anorexics, these were targeted at negative feelings (anger, sadness and fear) and enduring negative states (loneliness, depression), whereas positive feelings (happiness and pride) were acceptable. Individuals with bulimia and binge-purge anorexia experienced harsh and indifferent reactions to positive and negative feelings and prolonged negative states. However the binge-purge anorexics reported an attachment style suggestive of early developmental trauma possibly involving overt abuse or exposure to family conflict and violence.

How my research findings apply to clinical practice

The patterns that emerged from my thesis confirms that early experiences with our caregivers have an enormous impact on our ability to relate to friends, partners and children and on the emergence of later psychological problems. Much of the work in therapy involves working with these templates that guide our expectations of relationships and beliefs about ourselves and revising them where necessary to promote optimal health, satisfying relationships and an enjoyment of work and leisure.