Tell us about your specialization in therapy and how you chose it.
While my main area of specialization is eating disorders (ED), within mental health overall, I am very, very interested in ways in which religion and spirituality may play roles in folks’ mental health-eating disorder or not. I myself have a religious background (my undergrad degree was in Philosophy and Religion, and in addition to my mental health grad degree I have another from a Christian seminary), so I see everything from a highly contemplative place, asking ‘why?’ all the time. However, I don’t approach mental health issues with the assumption that spirituality is what’s missing, or that anytime someone brings up religion in the counseling office it’s a negative thing. I’ve found those approaches are overly simplistic, and reflect more about my passion for those things than the reality of what a client’s story actually may be!
I got into eating disorders in graduate school after an internship at a women’s clinic, literally around the corner from my mom’s house. Not knowing anything *at all* about ED, I soon came to understand it as the intersection of all that it is to be human. I think of us as people as sort of a cupcake, or a smoothie if you’d rather, that is a function of all of the aspects of a what makes a person-the pure physiological body “stuff,” the thinking/cognitive “stuff,” and the emotional “stuff”-and produces who we see and who they are.
All of those things have to be tended, and the proportions of them are never more clear than when doing ED work. How spirituality or religion may show up in folks’ lives, I believe those things must be unraveled and questioned gently and slowly, as they are very rich threads that run throughout all of the “stuff” in folks’ lives in all sorts of ways, sort of like a color dye.
What is something that may surprise us to know?
At one point, I could read the Bible in Hebrew, Latin and Greek proficiently (Latin and Greek quite well!).
If you were in a different profession, what would you choose and why?
I used to do live concert sound and spend a lot of time around sound systems (speakers, mics, long cables, processors, all that). I’d always daydreamt about touring as a band’s main “sound guy.” I think I’d still enjoy having a standing local gig doing that, even if I know my ears are very out of shape for that sort of precise listening! In a similar vein, I still daydream about being a touring musician in a band. Not the star-just one of the guitarists on the stage whose names you don’t know and whom you hardly ever notice. I’d just want to play with precision and get the job done at the highest level. That’d be enough for me.
What is your Love Language?
If you could go anywhere, where and why?
I read something about someone taking a bike tour around a volcano in Iceland this morning—that sounds like a good way to spend some time right about now!
To contact Dixon Parnell, LPC.
Click here to visit his website