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A Few Ways Eating Disorder Treatment Centers Can Improve Social Connections

Because social support is a key factor in recovery from any behavioral health disorder, eating disorder treatment centers often prioritize building these support systems in preparation for a successful transition to life in recovery. People in eating disorder treatment are encouraged to identify those in their social networks and find ways to rebuild their connections. The treatment centers host family programming days and other events that encourage loved ones to visit and take part in the care process. The programming activities help educate loved ones about eating disorders and the process of becoming and remaining recovered. This helps them to understand what to expect and how to best participate in that process.

In addition to family programming, eating disorder centers often have family come in for individual and group therapy sessions. Through these sessions, people with eating disorders can share their stories and receive judgment-free support that helps break down the walls of social isolation. Their family members can share their side of the tale as well, helping to build connections through shared experiences.

In family group sessions, multiple families come together to give their perspectives and learn from each other. This helps to show people with eating disorders, and their loved ones, that they are not alone in their journey and have no reason to feel ashamed. Many times, people can give their full support and compassion to others well before they offer the same to themselves. By joining many families together in this way, eating disorder treatment clients can often start to make the connection that they also deserve the same level of compassion.

For all treatment options for eating disorders, building strong social networks remains an important part of the journey toward becoming and remaining recovered. With this step, it is possible to bolster the resilience and motivations of people in eating disorder treatment and give them the tools they need to remain recovered after graduation.

Clients can return to the treatment center anytime they need additional social support by attending the alumnae therapy sessions. These sessions allow graduates and their families to maintain connections to the eating disorder counseling center, its fully recovered staff, and their peers in recovery.

Methods for Coping While Building a Strong Social Network

Although developing social connections is vital for the recovery of people with eating disorders, the process can cause stress and trigger symptoms. Clients must find healthy coping tools and learn how to use them when faced with triggers to overcome these issues. Otherwise, the urge to isolate may grow ever stronger and disordered thought patterns could return.

The coping methods that work best depend on the preferences and perceptions of each patient at eating disorder treatment centers. Their unique experiences in recovery and social interactions also influence what coping methods might work best. Eating disorder therapists help their clients find the most effective coping skills and use them in real time. As clients encounter difficulties in maintaining social connections, they can come to their care team for additional support and guidance.

Clients also have plenty of support as they attend their daily therapy sessions. These sessions encourage processing of social visits and interactions to find any stressors that may exist. Upon identifying those difficult moments, therapists help their clients use their healthy coping skills to work past the distress. With each successful mitigation of distress, clients build confidence in their social interactions and ability to cope with triggers and stress.

Going Beyond Friends and Family in Finding Social Support

After graduating from eating disorder counseling centers, social support will help clients in remaining recovered throughout life. People who are recovered from eating disorders often benefit from looking beyond friends and family for support while continuing to nurture those relationships. The additional support can often be found in community groups and in social media.

Through social media connections in healthy support groups, people can see that they are surrounded by others facing similar difficulties in life. They receive the validation they need to fully appreciate their journey and celebrate their successes along the way. Reassurance and support exist whenever people need it when they are connected with others in easily-accessible online groups.

Community groups blend social interaction with the development of coping skills. People can come together to commiserate and practice new hobbies or other beneficial activities. The groups can center around whatever activity people favor most in coping well with daily stressors and eating disorder triggers. By building connections at every level, people can create a diverse social network that remains strong and accessible through all of life’s challenges.

When eliminating social isolation plays a major role in eating disorder treatment, clients can effectively build their support networks while working on becoming recovered. In addition to aiding in the recovery process, strong social support networks can assist clients in remaining recovered after graduating from eating disorder treatment.

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, 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.