PhD Graduate’s Research Focuses on Anorexia Nervosa
Understanding anorexia nervosa had been a challenge for Psychologist Dr Sia Rees so she decided to set the eating disorder as the focus of her doctoral research which culminated in her being awarded a PhD.
‘Despite my training and extra reading about eating disorders, I always felt unprepared when working with individuals afflicted by anorexia nervosa,’ said Rees. ‘The eating disorder work was especially difficult but I was drawn to it.
‘I felt it was my responsibility to better manage it. I took it as a sign that this was the work I needed to do. I decided then that I should learn every possible thing I could about anorexia to better prepare myself. At that point, I thought what better way to learn about a disorder than to do a PhD on it,’ she explained.
Her research involved nine women - all diagnosed with anorexia - writing their story anonymously. A book was compiled with each participant receiving a copy.
‘My research may benefit future treatment-based studies on anorexia nervosa that could explore the effectiveness of using narrative approaches to treat it. The research encouraged a more integrative way in which to conceptualise and understand anorexia nervosa, which may add useful insight for researchers interested in this field.’
Rees feels that challenges and obstacles are part of the reward of completing a PhD. ‘If it were easy, you wouldn’t feel such a sense of achievement!’
Rees was also awarded a scholarship from the National Research Foundation (NRF) who funded her through a freestanding scholarship.
Expressing deep gratitude to her support system, she said: ‘To my supervisor, Professor Doug Wassenaar – you’re a legend. My husband, David - you’re just a light. Thank you.
‘To my friends and family who have been through this whole process with me, you’re all awesome. I see you. I appreciate you and I value you.
Asked about her future plans, Rees said: ‘The PhD was about growing my knowledge base in this field. My plan is to continue working in private practice with individuals who have eating disorders. I would like to use what I have learned to better understand them and help them in their journey of recovery. I’m also excited at the prospect of continuing to learn and hope to work towards a post-doctorate.’