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Moving beyond routines in teaching and learning: Releasing the educative potential of published eating disorder memoirs
Learning from the lived experience of disordered eating is vital for contemporary mental health practitioners. While mental health practitioners need to understand the psycho-biological issues that impact the person and family with an eating disorder, there is much about this complex condition that eludes and escapes a bio-medical perspective. Use of an aesthetic lens on the issue can illuminate various challenges, tensions and insights that people with disordered eating experience along the journey of their ill-health and on to their recovery, but which often remain unstated in the clinical context. Scholars within the creative arts discipline are experts in making judgements about the quality of artworks they encounter and have highly developed aesthetic knowing. Yet, the central skills and knowledges embodied in creative arts activity are not widely utilized outside that sphere. This article reports on how aesthetics can be applied to sensitize mental health practitioners to appreciate the lived experience of a mental health challenge such as an eating disorder. Such mental health practitioners play an important role in the health service, yet the widespread diffusion of the bio-medical model into mental health, once characterized for its equal emphasis on the psycho-social-cultural, has led to criticisms of an over-focus on illness identification, at the expense of accommodating the meanings of subjective and unique experiences of mental health, struggle and recovery. Using Kate Grenville’s typology of the elements of effective creative writing, we show how these elements contribute to the aesthetic power and impact of particular eating disorder memoirs.