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Eight Important Questions to Ask an Eating Disorder Center Before Admitting

When choosing a center for treating eating disorders such as binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or others, prospective clients and their families have to find not only an accredited treatment facility but one that is capable of meeting their unique needs. Choosing a treatment facility can feel overwhelming; eating disorders are highly complex and consequently, treatment must be tailored to each individual. Because of the myriad choices available in the world of eating disorder recovery, research and comparison are necessary to make the right choice. This means you need to ask the right questions.

Fortunately, loved ones researching possible programs focan take both the client’s needs and the center’s available programs into account when trying to locate the best facility. One particular eating disorder treatment facility might offer only a traditional, medically-focused inpatient program, while another could offer a hybrid that includes multiple approaches, for example. One thing is clear, however; that recovery from an eating disorder is a deeply personal experience.People seeking out help for their loved ones should make sure the program is going to match their emotional, medical, psychiatric, and spiritual needs as they move towards recovery.

Know What to Ask and What to Look For

With that in mind, here are eight questions that will help you and/or your loved one make the correct, informed choice before committing to an eating disorder recovery program.

1. What kind of treatment options are available?

A recovery program that provides a wide variety of treatment components is one that can reach a wider group of people. For a residential treatment program, there is often a medical component that must be addressed, and the psychotherapy that follows is just as essential. Not every mode of therapy works for every individual, so make sure to ask the prospective treatment center about what types of treatment they have to offer.

For example, there is more than one kind of behavioral therapy available. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works by first identifying and removing disordered thoughts and the ideas that contribute to those thought patterns, then removing them through logical dialogue between therapist and client. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps people deal with painful emotions, and is helpful for those who find that certain situations can trigger extreme eating behaviors. These and other options like Cognitive Processing Therapy (designed for people addressing PTSD) are all viable.

2. Can you describe the recovery program and its past results?

While providing many viable treatment options is a must, and a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t provide the best outcomes for such a personal recovery process, it’s important to understand the general outlines of the program before committing. Although programs should be flexible and personalized, a proven track record and methodology are another sign of a quality center.

Monte Nido proudly offersa structured level system that tracks progress and a monitored journaling system can show how the recovery is coming along. The successful outcomes of a program that applies a proven track record in combination with individualized treatment can be established through data; see our outcomes results here and see for yourself.

3. How long has the staff been working in the field of eating disorder treatment?

As with any institution that combines medical, psychiatric, and therapeutic expertise, years’ worth of experience and practice indicate that the facility is devoted to providing the best care possible for each client.  and can handle diverse situations in treatment. Accreditation is essential of course. The staff must be adequately educated and prepared for this highly specialized discipline.

Many treatment facilities have only recently been established or put their focus n eating disorder recovery. This doesn’t mean they can’t provide excellent care, but experienced centers and staffs have the know-how to deal with unexpected circumstances and emergencies. Consider asking your prospective treatment center about the staff’s experience and tenure.

4. What are the living situations and medical facilities like?

Too often, media presentations have painted mental health facilities as will something out of a horror movie – sterile, impersonal, and institutional. The reality of the modern treatment center, though, features home-like settings geared around comfort and a feeling of safety. This allows for a combination of treatment modalities like group therapy and mindful meditation is a safe space, ensuring the best chance at recovery.

When choosing a residential eating disorder treatment program, make sure you ask the admissions staff about the living situation. Is there a kitchen available 24 hours a day? Will I be in a single room or have a roommate? What are the grounds like? Are you disability-accessible? What kind of phone/internet privileges are there? We’re sure you’ll have many more –going into a place prepared and knowledge should be a priority when it will be your recovery home for 30 days or more.

5. Is each location identical? How can you help me choose the best facility for my needs?

If there’s one thing to stress about eating disorder therapy, it’s that there is no successful one-size-fits-all approach. Eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder often co-occur with co-occurring disorders, exercise addiction, or even simply different levels of severity. You should be on the lookout for a location that can meet your loved one’s unique needs, in line with your doctor’s and therapists’ recommendations.

The USA is a big place. Many people who need to enter residential treatment don’t live particularly close to a center and must travel to get treatment. Many others may choose to be away from their familiar haunts- a new setting helps to leave some triggering baggage behind. When scouting a possible residential treatment center, ask them about the specifics of each location you are considering. They will help you find the program that best meets your needs and your financial considerations. They may also be able to help you locate alternatives if your chosen facility is at capacity.

6. Does the continuum of care include alternative therapies?

There are many new types of therapy past the traditional talk-based models which can provide a different path to recovery. In addition, to talk therapy and the behavioral models we mentioned earlier, many clients find that they benefit greatly from methodologies that promote mindfulness and self-awareness. Art and music therapy are perfect examples. Exploring one’s psyche through creative expression provides avenues of self-understanding that may not be available through traditional therapy. (Don’t worry – you don’t need to know how to paint or play a musical instrument!)

Taking part in a new experience also allows for greater mindfulness, a central component of mental health treatment. Some kinds of movement classes can combine light exercise with experiencing the moment, such as yoga or tai chi. Other experiential therapies like nature walks, excursions to concerts or other performances, gardening, restaurant visits, and other alternative therapies are often a perfect complement to traditional talk therapy. It’s in your best interest to inquire about alternate and experiential therapies provided by the program.

7. Does the facility include nutritional training that can help during and after the treatment program?

It’s worthwhile to ask if the facility can provide training about meal-planning and grocery shopping. Individual nutrition sessions, nutrition education and counseling, and nutritional supplements can help restore the body’s nutritional balance. Nutrition not only helps the body function more efficiently – it also greatly affects brain function, mood, and emotion, all of which are essential and treatable aspects of eating disorder recovery.

People presenting with disruptions in their attunement with their bodies can, with effective treatment and support, restore a healthy relationship with food and activity and go on to become fully recovered conscious eaters. A nutrition-informed program should be designed around the concept that each client has a core healthy self but who, over time, develops an eating disorder self that powers the urges, thoughts, and behaviors associated with these complicated illnesses.

8. What kinds of provisions are made for care after residential treatment is concluded?

This question might be the most essential of them all. Recovery is not a simple cure – you can’t simply take a pill and have it go away like taking an antibiotic. Recovery almost always takes months or years and must continue after intensive residential care. Relapse is always a risk, and although relapses are not to be considered failures, people should take steps to avoid them. An aftercare program can help graduates navigate their recovered life.

With this in mind, ask your potential eating disorder treatment center about their continued care options. Is there a step-down program with IOP or PHP options? Can the program help arrange therapy, nutritionists, and medical care upon the client’s return home? Is there an alumni group that can help keep them connected to their peers? What is the protocol for relapse?

Do Your Research and Make the Right Choice for You

Eating disorder recovery is a major life change. Like any major event, you shouldn’t go into it unprepared. That’s why, after receiving an eating disorder diagnosis from your therapist or mental health professional, you should make every effort to learn as much as possible about treatment before admitting. An informed choice is much more likely to be a correct choice. Prepare your questions and give us a call. A happier, healthier life free from eating disorders awaits.

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.