Max, Orri’s Service Director, talks us through Bounce Theory (Jones, 2005) – a helpful aid for those with bulimia and binge eating disorder to understand their illness and coping behaviours.

Max Jones, is Orri’s Service Director. She has been working with eating disorders for 25 years as a qualified Psychotherapist, Occupational Therapist and Higher Education Teacher. She has 22 years’ experience of managing eating disorder teams within in-patient, day-patient, and outpatient settings. She developed Bounce Theory back in 2005.

In this blog, Max discusses what Bounce Theory is and how it is applies to our clients, here at Orri…

What is Bounce Theory?

It is a concept to help clients understands how different coping mechanisms interact with each other, highlighting how impulsive thoughts can lead to eating disorder behaviours (otherwise known as maladaptive coping mechanisms). It is generally useful for those with Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

Max summarises:

  • A visual, sensitive and therapeutic method of increasing awareness and identifying multiple maladaptive behaviours
  • Client centred: simple to grasp and identifies an individual’s unique behaviours
  • Can be evaluated and re-evaluated throughout treatment and by the service user after treatment
  • Cognitive-behavioural theory, with a pictorial image that can be related to by the service user
  • Aids collaborative work between clinician and individual establishing areas of coping without focusing on a single behaviour in isolation

What is a “bounce”?

A “bounce” for an individual is an action that they carry out to cope with a mental health difficulty or situation. This can be eating disorder related or present in daily life issues.

For example, someone with an eating disorder may turn to “bounces” (such as restriction or purging). When in recovery, these bounces will be intervened and explored, meaning that the individual could restrict less but then bounce into other areas, to cope or even satisfy these actions – such as exercise, tidying the house, or going for a walk. What can be often missed in the therapeutic work are the wider factors surrounding an eating disorder, so that is why this visual aid can be useful for both client and clinician.

“Ultimately, this is a personable and interactive way for someone to identify their bounces – to see what they are doing, what they are letting go of, what they can do to reduce a bounce.

In groups I run, people can identify with up to fifty bounces, ranging from stealing, gambling, alcohol, or things that they might interchange with eating… at Orri, we holistically treat all the behaviours that may influence and individual and their eating disorder, and this is a way to do this.”

Bounce theory ties into Orri’s approach in treating the whole person, holistically and with non-judgement. In this light, we can understand the protective intent behind an eating disorder and respond with compassion and respect for how someone has tried to keep themselves going day-to-day.

Gaining insight into how the eating disorder developed can bring a greater awareness to certain behaviours and thoughts, and create a space within which we can choose recovery.

Below is an example of a Bounce character:

bounce theory max jones

How do we apply Bounce Theory at Orri, and how do we encourage clients to think about it?

We hold regular streams of bounce – called Bounce Stream – where our clients explore their bounces with each other in group work.

What is also encouraged at Orri is reflecting this terminology culturally, so our clients, our clinical team, families and friends use a common language that is understood – “did you bounce yesterday?”

What do people with bulimia tend to struggle with?

Within a treatment setting and during mealtimes, many clients with bulimia struggle with the speed that they eat and sitting with feelings of rumination, post-eating. They may also struggle with having a certain amount of food and tolerating this experience – especially when shame or guilt surrounding purging arises.

This is where the support of our Eating Disorder Associates (EDAs) is so unique at Orri, as they come alongside clients in these moments and listen, with understanding.

How do we support clients with bulimia and binge eating disorders specifically at Orri?

We support our clients with bulimia and BED by collaboratively creating meal plans with them, which provides structure to their day. This is done with our Dietetics team and the kitchen staff.

We offer our clients 1:1 therapy, as well as group therapy. This provides the safe and confidential space for them to understand the function of the eating disorder and to identify their thought processes and interlinked behaviours. What is similar in clients with these particular eating disorders is low self-esteem, wanting to please others, and the shame purging and bingeing can inflict.

What do you wish people with bulimia knew?

BED and bulimia are often overlooked illnesses.

“I don’t feel the true seriousness of the condition [bulimia] is often portrayed as the way it should be. I don’t think people know just how detrimental and life-threatening bulimia can be to the body.”

What Max highlights is that there is help and there is support for these eating disorders. Orri is an example where you are not viewed as your eating disorder – you are viewed as your unique self. You are accepted, understood and witnessed here.

More on Bulimia and BED:


max jones orri

Do you have any questions? Get in touch with us!