Sandra Susan Friedman
BA – Sociology, MA – Psychology, BSW – Social Work
I am an educator, author and counsellor/therapist. I have over 30 years of experience in addressing the mental health and social issues that girls and boys face as they make their way from childhood through adolescence into adulthood, and in helping people deal with stress and navigate relationship issues and life transitions.
For many years, my primary work has been the identification and treatment and prevention of eating disorders and body image disturbances in adolescents, and teaching survival strategies to their distraught parents. Because my practice keeps evolving to meet the changing needs of my clients and the myriad of issues that arise in our society, my focus has expanded to promoting wellness, resilience and positive mental health. I teach people how to identify and follow the clues that enable them to recognize their specific issues and dynamics, and help them draw upon their own resources to make positive changes in their lives. With the ever-escalating War on Obesity, I continue to work to change the paradigm from one that labels fat as ‘bad’ and ‘unhealthy’ to one that sees fat as a body size and embraces the concept of Health at Every Size.
I have conducted hundreds of professional training workshops and education seminars across Canada and the United States. I take great pride in making the issues come alive through stories using real life examples and situations I have encountered in my own life and practice. I interact with the participants and create a safe environment for them to talk about their own issues and experiences. I am able to parse overwhelming problems into small manageable portions, and I teach people easy to use skills so that they can resolve ongoing difficulties as they arise. I provide participants with concrete learning activities and a sense of direction that gives them the confidence to integrate that learning into their own practice. Best of all, I am passionate about what I do. I have infectious energy and inject humour into my workshops and private practice.
My publications and programs have evolved naturally out of my work:
In 1992 I developed a group discussion program for young girls, addressing what happens to them in the process of growing up female that encourages them to define themselves by the numbers on the bathroom scale. While originally intended to diffuse body image issues and prevent eating disorders, the JUST FOR GIRLS program also addresses other mental health and social risks to which girls are vulnerable. The program was revised in print in 2003 and as an e-book in 2011. It is even more relevant and widely used today as a model for promoting wellness and resilience.
WHEN GIRLS FEEL FAT: Helping Girls Through Adolescence was published in 1997 (revised in 2000) to provide information concerning adolescent development for facilitators of my programs. The book was originally intended for mothers and other adult mentors, but it quickly became a necessary read for girls themselves and continues to be widely circulated amongst them.
The manual NURTURING GIRLPOWER: Integrating Eating Disorder Prevention/Intervention Skills into Your Practice evolved out of Eating Disorders Project North. During 1999 and 2000, I traveled the northern areas of British Columbia to facilitate three-day workshops on eating disorder prevention and again on intervention in order to build local treatment capacity in rural and remote communities. The manual was revised in 2003 to include additional skills and activities.
BODY THIEVES: Help Girls Reclaim Their Natural Bodies and Become Physically Active adds a necessary dimension to understanding the social and health risks to which girls are vulnerable (such as eating disorders, body image disturbances, smoking, alcohol use, etc.). Physical activity and sports are a means of helping girls remain connected to their bodies, especially as they make the transition through adolescence.
JUST FOR BOYS is a group discussion program that examines the societal pressures on boys to conform to a rigid and traditional definition of masculinity. It addresses the health risks such as eating disorders, body image disturbances, smoking and drug and alcohol use to which they are vulnerable. JUST FOR BOYS helps boys build self-esteem and resilience and teaches them skills so that they can cope with societal and personal stressors in a healthy way.
I developed JUST FOR GIRLS and JUST FOR BOYS as group programs for young people because I have personally experienced the interactive power of groups and strongly believe that girls and boys need a chance to come together in a safe environment where they can be real with each other, and share their concerns and explore their beliefs about what it means to be female or be male. By talking with each other they learn to take themselves seriously and to extend that courtesy to others. In the process they find their voice and strengthen their sense-of-self. This is precisely what most girls and boys need to withstand the social pressures, over-stimulation and destructive messages that bombard them constantly.
My books and manuals are a partnership between me and the reader. I have the ability to integrate contemporary psychological theory with practical real-life examples, elucidating the many causes of the problems troubling girls and boys and suggesting new strategies to effect change. I blend together the data that transforms research into action regarding body image and personal and societal stressors and issues. My manuals and programs are holistic, comprehensive, evidence-based and girl-centred or boy-centred.
My publications are available as e-books which makes them more accessible outside Canada and the United States.