Adolescent Day Treatment Programming

Monte Nido is sensitive to the developmental needs of adolescents, and our highly trained and supportive staff takes a holistic approach to helping them become fully recovered. We understand the complexity of eating disorders and offer unique programming to treat adolescents, whether they are stepping down from a residential treatment center or seeking a partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient level of care while living at home.

Monte Nido takes a specialized approach blending adolescent-only and mixed-milieu programming, balancing age-appropriateness and clinical considerations. This allows for increased exposure to the skill building and thought, feeling and behavior management relevant to all clients.

Using the same philosophy, protocols and approaches offered at other Monte Nido programs, our adolescent day treatment programming is geared toward adolescent clinical and developmental issues, diligently maintaining a positive and healthy environment. More sensitive topics are addressed in individual sessions. Program offerings include:

  • Clinical content and psychotherapy groups that appropriately reflect the specific developmental and social needs of adolescents
    Two individual therapy sessions weekly | Relationship groups |Adapted skills groups
  • Nutrition and food
    Weekly individual nutrition session with Registered Dietitian | Coached family meals | Nutrition exposures coordinated with outpatient team | Supported meals
  • Family programming as appropriate and available
    Weekly individual family sessions | Multi-family groups | Parent education series | Extensive psycho-education to help gain understanding and tools to support recovery | Weekly phone calls to provide updates on adolescent’s progress
  • Academic support
    Programming occurs during the afternoon to allow adolescents to attend school in the mornings | Clinical team works closely with each teen on their school schedules and demands | Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are developed and followed in collaboration with each teen’s school so parents can have confidence their child’s academic needs are being met while they are working toward recovery from the eating disorder

When they are ready, adolescents can step down from partial hospitalization to Monte Nido’s intensive outpatient programming (IOP), which offers continued clinical support and containment while allowing for full school engagement. Whenever possible, adolescents will retain the same primary therapist and dietitian for their individual sessions.

Advantages of Treating Adolescents and Adults in the Same Milieu


Doug Bunnell, PhD, CEDS, FAED               Chief Clinical Officer

The average age of onset for most eating disorders sits squarely in early to middle of adolescence. Even with early detection and treatment, many individuals move from adolescence to adulthood with their eating disorder in tow. Many things about the eating disorder shift in this developmental transition. These include the nature of medical risks of the eating disorder, the role of the family in treatment, the tone and content of motivation and ambivalence about change and the degree to which the individual is free and capable of making their own decisions regarding treatment. In many ways the eating disorder effectively resists maturation; that is, the symptoms, behaviors, anxieties and core cognitions remain similar across the developmental range.

There are certainly advantages to structuring intensive treatment programs along developmental lines. Separating adolescent from adult clients allows programs to tailor clinical content and core treatment interventions. One common rationale in favor of separate programming is that separation allows for more focus on family work and support. These issues are particularly important at the residential level of care. I believe, however, there are strong arguments in favor of providing opportunities for adolescents and adults to work together in treatment as they move to lower levels of care such as day treatment programs.

Adolescents with eating disorders are generally more overtly resistant to treatment than adults. As a rule, adolescents minimize the impact of the eating disorder on their lives and tend to see the eating disorder as something that enhances them in some important way. This can make treatment engagement particularly challenging because adolescents often see treatment as a process that will take something precious away from them. Adults, by virtue of maturation, may often have developed a greater perspective for what the eating disorder has cost them in terms of their physical and relational wellbeing. Even young adults have a greater capacity to look forward and begin to wrestle with the implications of moving through their lives without fully resolving their eating disorder.

Combining adolescents and adults in day treatment programs helps bridge this motivational divide. Teen-only groups can coalesce around a negative or resistant view about treatment. Young adult and adult groups are less likely to stay stuck in a defiant stance. This openness to the possibility of recovery and change can have a powerful impact on an adolescent that isn’t sure they are ready to engage. Hearing from an older peer about the impact of their eating disorder can break through the defiance in a way that a therapist or a family member can’t. These moments, where an adult patient connects and emotionally touches an adolescent on this issue of desire for change, can be enormously powerful, even transformative. Mixing adolescents and adults can also minimize group comparisons and competition. These dynamics can flourish in adolescent-only groups and inhibit recovery. Many adolescents and adults tell us they often feel disconnected or set-apart in their relationships. Treatment environments that provide a range of healthy relationship opportunities, with staff and with fellow clients, increase the chances for a meaningful connection that can help build the momentum for change and recovery. 

It takes a strong and experienced treatment team to create and manage these interactions. Teens do need their own separate spaces to address their unique developmental issues. They need specialized family therapy services and support. The group therapy content in mixed groups requires thoughtful monitoring by staff. Day programs that mix adolescents with adults must provide these separated program elements. Programs that mix adolescents and adults need to have distinct models and goals for family therapy and support. With careful and thoughtful attention to these modifications, mixed day treatment programming for adolescents and adults can take advantage of the power of connection between an adolescent with an eating disorder and an adult who can recognize where that adolescent is now and, perhaps more importantly, provide a glimpse of where they are headed.