true comfort food: pie therapy

When it comes to therapy, we have quite a selection to choose from, whether it be in a professional or low-key setting. Some people enjoy a classic sit-down with a counselor to spill their guts. Some are into creating art or working out as a form of release.

But here’s an option I hadn’t heard of before: pie therapy. First off, it sounds like it a new kind of competitive eating, or maybe Food Network’s latest series (probably starring Guy Fieri). Pie therapy is neither of those, and it’s a really interesting concept.

Offered through Santa Monica’s Gourmandise School, pie therapy was the brain child of two psychologists and a pastry chef. The class is essentially like any other cooking class you can find: you learn the techniques for making a darn-good pie. However, people who come in have other concerns they’d like to address, such as perfectionism, anxiety and addiction.

The pie-making process is then used as a vehicle for working through personal struggles. Participants use mindfulness practices to be in the present moment and accept themselves, and their pies, as they are. These classes are available for everyone, including clinicians, clients, rehab residents, eating disorder center residents, sober living residents, and even corporate offices can benefit from the team building activity.

Let’s face it: therapy can be intimidated. Of course, before even beginning the therapy process, you must first accept that you need it. That’s hard enough already. Allowing yourself to be in a vulnerable position where you need help from an outside source is its own act of bravery. Some people can work things out for themselves or through loved ones’ support, but there is no shame in having a professional voice chiming in.

That isn’t even mentioning the whole ordeal of finding a therapist that fits well with you. I wish I could say I have been successful at this, but alas, I’m not, which is probably why I haven’t been in any therapy setting for over a year. Whether you’re a student or are new to the therapy world, finding a counselor you feel comfortable with and jives well with your personality often takes a long time. It’s discouraging to end up stuck, not fully open and understood. The same process goes for group therapy, too. You just have more people influencing how you feel in that particular setting.

I think it’s amazing to see new options available for people who might be hesitant about therapy or haven’t found much success, to come into a new setting that’s fresh and innovative. You aren’t focused entirely on yourself, you sitting across from a stranger as you twiddle your thumbs. You can instead put focus into the hands-on activity, a fun one at that, and have a launching pad to express yourself.

As a personal connection, having those in eating disorder recovery in this type of class is so important. When you already struggle with the relationships between yourself and food, using the very thing wreaking havoc in your life as a way to relax. It’s not all focused on you, but you’re gaining insight into yourself nonetheless.

The pies are a metaphor, in a way. No pie is going to come out of the oven looking the same, but they’ll all still end up tasting delicious (I mean, if you did it right). There will inevitably be some imperfections in each one, but that doesn’t make the pie any less. And even if you make a mistake, you’re gaining knowledge for the next time you bake, a process that requires you to stay focused and present to successfully complete.

I’m sure there are many other classes similar to this one available, ones that aren’t so far away geographically. However, my biggest takeaway is that ability to turn seemingly normal, even mundane tasks, into a form of therapy. Creative expression has always been a key outlet for emotional growth, but you can practice mindfulness even when you’re just brushing your teeth or getting ready for the day. Maybe you don’t find much relief from the traditional talk therapy, or you’re not able to afford or be nearby quality care. That’s okay.

Every day, every moment is an opportunity to grow and learn more about ourselves. Depending on our perspectives, even what feels like a daunting, unbearable task, such as making food whilst recovering from an eating disorder, can provide clarity. Who knows what inspiration you could spark from trying something new, even if you aren’t an expert, even if you make mistakes. So let them eat pie! And make pie. And enjoy some pie therapy.

Mindful meditation: Our Father, we face the world fearful, unsure of what obstacles lie ahead and what mistakes we could potentially make. Let us be comforted in Your ceaseless love, supporting us every step of our journeys, and seek solace even in unexpected places. In Your Holy name, Amen.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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