Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Therapeutic Cooking and Culinary Therapy

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

One of my friends who has an MSW degree began a group this fall that focuses on Therapeutic Cooking with adults with Mental Health Issues. It is very new, little research has been conducted, but already the benefits can be seen.

A group of individuals, age does not matter and diagnosis does not matter. The focus is on socializing, learning to cook together, learning about food, the health benefits of food, how to shop for food, how to cook, how food affects your mood and the results; eating together as a group and the satisfaction of having cooked a healthy meal.

For individuals who are alone, perhaps are in a lower economic bracket, financially they may not be able to buy quality vegetables, fruit, meat or fish. Also, many adults who live alone do not cook a big meal for themself or may not know how to cook at all.

The research I have conducted focuses on Therapeutic cooking from an Occupational viewpoint such as one recovering from a stroke or other neurological illness/disease or physical disability.

“Cooking has therapeutic value physically, cognitively, socially and intrapersonally. Physically, cooking requires good movement in shoulders, fingers, wrists, elbow, neck, as well as good overall balance. Adequate muscle strength is needed in upper limbs for lifting, mixing, cutting and chopping. Furthermore, sensory awareness is important in considering safety while dealing with hot and sharp objects.” This is the therapeutic value noted by the University of Alberta.

There is much to learn and many benefits for almost every segment and demographic in society. Food has a lot of meaning culturally, ethnically, religiously and it brings people together whether it is baking, cooking a meal, shopping for the food and certainly sitting down together and socializing.

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