WE JUST CAN’T FIND THE WORDS to adequately express our profound gratitude to Carolyn Costin and her incredibly dedicated team of professionals at Monte Nido. After multiple stays in two other major programs, the uniqueness of the program at Monte Nido is the reason our daughter is alive today and getting on with her life. Staffed by individuals who not only talked the talk, but had literally walked the walk and were able to relate to our daughter on every level. No matter what a client’s belief system is, every client at Monte Nido is treated with the love and respect they deserve. Our dying daughter’s response to treatment at Monte Nido was nothing short of miraculous. Thank God for Monte Nido.
AFTER FOUR YEARS OF FIGHTING anorexia, my daughter and I came to Monte Nido. We had experienced multiple treatment centers and treatment types. During the first meeting, I looked at the physical facilities and wondered how a “homey” place could provide what multiple hospitalizations at sophisticated centers could not. It was the meeting with Carolyn that provided the first glimmer of hope that my daughter would survive this illness. In 30 minutes Carolyn had connected with my daughter and identified some of the struggles and secrets she’d held inside for so long. I made the decision to trust Carolyn with my daughter. It was a decision I’ve never regretted. At Monte Nido Carolyn has brought together a wondrous group of individuals who soften the treatment demands with love and support. The focus is on living, not just surviving.
Carolyn Costin’s workshop at this year’s National Eating Disorders Association conference was all about recovery, gathering strands from current research, feedback from recovered patients and strategies she’s come up with after 35 years of clinical experience. Costin, who herself recovered from an eating disorder, is founder and executive director of The Eating Disorder Center of California and Monte Nido, with centers in California and Oregon.
The session was packed, and it’s no wonder; she is a dynamic, witty speaker with a no-nonsense style born of years of experience in the trenches. Here is a brief summary of her information- and advice-rich talk.
- Recovery is when you accept your own natural body size and shape, have a healthy relationship with exercise, and when you won’t compromise yourself to reach a certain number on the scale. Another sign of a return to health is “when you reach out to others for comfort and help, not your eating disorder.”
- “Your healthy self will heal your eating-disordered self. In other words, your eating disorder can’t be more powerful than you are, because it resides in you and is part of you. The idea is to integrate the two selves over time. The work of the patient, with the help of a therapist, is figuring out what anxieties and issues the eating disorder is solving, and how to replace the eating disorder with healthier coping mechanism. (I know, easier said than done, but clarity about your objective always helps.)
- Costin has patient’s journal before bingeing, because this, she said, “gives access to the part of you that binges.” She also has patients journal about “my last binge,” write a dialogue with their eating-disordered selves, role play, write a thank you letter and then a goodbye letter to their eating-disordered self. She has them write about their worst eating-disordered day, too.
- Learn to tell the truth. Don’t say, “I don’t like pasta.” Say, “I’m afraid of pasta.” This is the first step to overcoming the fear.
- Eating disorders are both about food, and not about food. While non-food issues (anxiety, trauma) may have helped trigger the disorder, you need to regain a healthy relationship with food in order to recover. Food is the phobic object, and you have to be hands-on with it.
- Feel your feelings. Learn “affect tolerance,” or how to live with unpleasant, scary or hurtful feelings, instead of turning to food to mask those feelings.
- Find meaning and purpose outside of yourself. “Religion is the bridge to spirituality and too many people get stuck on the bridge.” Eating disorders are the same: the eating-disordered person seeks something larger, but gets stuck in the eating disorder.
- Advice for counselors, equally applicable to parents, is: Adopt the attitudes of empathy and constructive curiosity. A supportive, empathetic relationship is crucial to recovery.
- Be a positive role model (in other words, “be okay with your own body,” model healthy eating at meals).
- Don’t take sides against the eating disorder. Be for the recovery process, not against the eating disorder).
- Think in the long term: Those who recover don’t throw in the towel.
Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto are co-authors of The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders: Supporting Self-Esteem, Healthy Eating & Positive Body Image at Home (www.childhoodeatingdisorders.com)
I am writing on behalf of Carolyn Costin and Monte Nido. As a registered dietitian specializing in eating disorders, I have known and respected Carolyn Costin’s work for over 20 years. In my private practice, I am often in the position of referring patients to inpatient eating disorder programs. Although I refer to a select number of inpatient programs, when I have a patient whose prognosis is especially difficult or poor, I usually call Monte Nido. I think one of the advantages to this facility is its very small size and very individualized care. In one particular case, Monte Nido was able to help one of the most challenging patients of my career come to terms with her anorexia, bulimia, social and family issues and enable her to return to college and begin the process of normalizing the relationships in her life. I was also pleased to have received interim updates on her progress from her team. The best part, however, was seeing the beaming face of my patient as she went through graduation at Monte Nido. I was not there in person on the day of her graduation, but because Monte Nido graciously called and asked if I would like a copy of the graduation, I was able to see the graduation process and share my patients experience and excitement. That was the first time I had been so included in a patient’s recovery from an inpatient program and I found the opportunity thrilling for both me and my patient.
Monte Nido is one of the best residential treatment centers, for eating disorders, in the country. The center combines a beautiful natural healing environment with a staff of highly trained experts specializing in treating eating disorders. Monte Nido is unique to all other eating disorder facilities in that it provides an individualized and empathetic approach to helping clients recover. The staff, which consists of professionals and other individuals who have recovered from eating disorders, offers some of the best treatment interventions and techniques to help clients accomplish their goals in recovery. I highly recommended the program to clients and professionals, who are looking for a thoughtful, unique and understanding program, which promotes hope and healing from eating disorders.