Kitchen therapy: How a therapist helps families through cooking

Local therapist reimagines family counseling amid pandemic

Kitchen therapy: Cooking, healing as a family

Many families have spent more time than ever in their kitchens since the pandemic shut everything down, and it got one local therapist thinking about a non-traditional way to offer family counseling.

Therapist Julie Ohana knows we’re all looking for ways to find some peace during uncertain times. As a social worker who has worked with families for nearly two decades, Ohana decided to focus on a new way to to help families work through their challenges amid the pandemic: cooking.

“I always felt I grew up in the kitchens of my mom and my grandma, and just always had this innate feeling that I knew that cooking and spending time with my family in the kitchen was beneficial,” Ohana said.

With what she calls “culinary art therapy,” Ohana says families who spend time together in the kitchen can increase their problem solving skills, improve communication and help sharpen mindfulness skills.

“I think these are all skills that more and more people are realizing that we all need to possess,” Ohana said. “These are all lessons that we learn in the kitchen that I’m helping to facilitate people to really getting familiar with and comfortable with, and realizing that these are life skills.”

Related: Survey: Nearly half of Americans say they experienced changes in physical, mental health amid pandemic

Ohana begins by identifying a person’s or a family’s goals, then figures out a way to help them achieve those goals using their kitchen as a backdrop instead of the traditional therapist’s sofa.

“Everybody’s goal is different, and I’m not coming into anybody’s home or family to tell them what they need,” Ohana said. “I’m fine taking the cues from them -- they’re telling me what they need, and I’m helping to fulfill those needs based on where they are, so it can be an enjoyable experience.”

Ohana says that one goal many families as for help with is basic communication -- which she thinks is perfect to address through kitchen therapy, as communication is necessary when you’re cooking as a group.

Another big challenge for families: picky eaters.

“My personal philosophy with picky eaters is let them be,” Ohana said. “The more that we make issues of things, the more they become issues. And I think sometimes we have to just not put so much pressure on the kids.”

Click here to learn more about culinary art therapy on Ohana’s website.

Related: How experts say pandemic has impacted mental health

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