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What to Ask a Potential Eating Disorder Recovery Program

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and other less familiar complexes are widespread psychiatric illnesses, affecting at least to 30 million people of all races ages, and genders in the United States alone. Because eating disorders can be dangerous and even fatal, it’s important for those who have the symptoms of such a disorder to seek out help from an eating disorder recovery center.

But how can someone find the right treatment center? It can be an intimidating process, but some essential questions can help you decide which facility and type of treatment is best.

Know Your Options and the Different Treatment Methods

While the details of an eating disorder treatment center’s program vary from facility to facility, let alone program to program, the majority of centers will offer a distinct set of program types. These include residential programs, where clients live at the facility, day treatment or outpatient programs, where the client visits the facility regularly but lives at home, and more specialized medical and psychiatric programs.

First, to comprehensively treat an individual’s food restriction or purging eating disorder recovery, most people fare better with residential care programs. Only with this type of facility can a person with an eating disorder obtain the structure and medical care that is necessary to address the underlying issues.

In a residential eating disorder treatment center, clients have access to 24/7 medical care, but even more important is how they can spend all their time pursuing eating disorder recovery.  This is supported by group activities such as therapy, training, off-site events and more

A proper philosophy for long-term treatment of eating disorders is to look beyond the immediate treatment needs, that is stabilizing any nutritional or otherwise pressing medical needs, and setting the foundation for emotional, psychological, and behavioral changes. Monte Nido provides a way for our clients to not only overcome the physical challenges resulting from their eating disorders, but to understand themselves and their relationship with food, eating, and movement.

Finding an eating disorder treatment center that is a good fit starts with asking their staff the following questions:

1. Are There Nutritional Guidance Classes? 

No comprehensive program to treat eating disorders is complete without addressing the nutritional component of their clients’ lives. Eating disorders often leave people facing nutritional imbalances and even malnutrition, leading to medical complications. Nutritional programming needs to be individually designed to match the necessary recuperation, but it also needs to take into account their individual preferences regarding special diets, religious restrictions, allergies, and other restrictions.

2. What Is the Residential Treatment Like?

A feeling of safety and security is essential at any facility that treats mental health diseases, and this is equally true when treating eating disorders, which are often driven by feelings of anxiety and guilt. This is often best accomplished by having a home-like environment which avoids a sterile, cold feeling that can come from a hospital. No matter which city, it’s located in, a Monte Nido eating disorder recovery center provides luxurious accommodations with a welcoming staff. This compassionate and relaxed setting encourages recovery, acceptance, and healing.

3. What Kind of Therapeutic Philosophy Does the Center Have? 

Is the center you’re checking out strictly focused on medical treatment? Is it a talk therapy and counseling only facility? Or does the center combine several therapeutic methodologies for comprehensive care? Depending on your needs or those of a loved one, any of these can work – but the client must be prepared for a long-term recovered life.

An effective way to prevent relapses and fundamentally correct disordered behavior is to address self-image and body image. Accepting one’s natural body shape and size while working to improve her or his image of the body is crucial to preventing the return of disordered behaviors, so learning how to express feelings appropriately and mindfully self-examining can go a long way toward a life free from eating disorders.

To facilitate a positive body image and eventually a full recovery, eating disorder treatment centers must approach each client without judgment. Understanding that each client is more than their disorder is the first step to overcoming that disorder. Monte Nido’s therapeutic team and clinicians work diligently to strengthen, nurture and challenge each client and meet them where she or he is at currently.

4. What Kind of Accreditations Do You Have?

A licensed and accredited eating disorder treatment center is essential due to the complexity and difficulty of treating these complex diseases. Meeting the requirements of licensure and accreditation ensures that the patient has access to high-quality care. Organizations such as the Residential Eating Disorders Consortium (REDC), the Joint Commission (JHACO, the premier accreditation for health care of all types) and the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) are highly respected within the industry and hold treatment centers who have been accredited to a high standard. Monte Nido holds accreditation with all three organizations.

5. What Types of Program Do You Offer?

As mentioned earlier, a 30-day or longer residential treatment program is usually the best option. However, people with responsibilities they can’t avoid may need to enter a day treatment program. Or, if medical needs are severe, another option may have to be considered. For example, intensive outpatient treatment and/or aftercare is often offered by an eating disorder treatment center so comprehensive care can be provided to meet the needs of different types of patients.

No matter the type of program, individualized treatment should be offered. One-size-fits-all programs which treat every case the same way should be avoided – they normally fail to address the specific causes of an individual’s disordered behavior and lead to relapse.

6. Is the Treatment Individualized? 

This is important enough to get its own question. Even if two people are seeking treatment for the same disorder, the underlying causes and emotions surrounding that disorder will never be the same. They’ll also have different medical and nutritional needs. Additionally, those needs don’t always stay the same, and different people progress at different speeds. Effective eating disorder treatment programs allow for a variety of paths to recovery.

Monte Nido eating disorder treatment centers individualize each treatment program in collaboration with the client and the therapeutic team. Coming from a base philosophy that everyone has a healthy, eating disorder-free self inside them, Monte Nido uses a unique level system to provide empowerment and support that leads to their recovery. The leveling system isn’t cookie-cutter, however. Each level is based on specific goals set by the client and the support team.

7. What Kind of Family Support System Is There?

One reason people search out “what is the best eating disorder treatment near me?” is because they are concerned about leaving those closest to them behind during this crucial time in their lives. Indeed, a client’s loved ones can and should play a major part in eating disorder recovery. For this reason, the treatment center that is chosen must understand the crucial role that family members play in their client’s recovery and provide services that support the family.

At Monte Nido, we’ve incorporated family support into our programs from the very beginning through graduation. Whenever possible, our treatment team works closely with family members and significant others – not only to help identify patterns that could lead to complications during and after recovery but also to train the family how to empower their loved one in recovery and provide support.

While in residential or day treatment, family therapy in group and individual sessions is encouraged. Depending on the needs of each client, a variety of family therapy options are available including weekly multi-family groups, monthly two-day family weekends and individual family sessions.

8. What Kind of Therapy Does My Program Include?

There are a variety of therapeutic approaches that can be applied to the treatment of eating disorders, from medication to faith-based therapy. At Monte Nido, we prefer an evidence-based talk therapy regimen, with less emphasis on medication (which has not been scientifically been proven to work on most major eating disorders).

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, provides each client with a safe and supportive environment in which to address the negative thought patterns that exist. Once these are identified, CBT works to implement healthy coping skills that are designed to handle challenging emotions.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) uses a back-and-forth therapy session between the client and therapist to identify and address negative feelings and highlight them as disordered. From there, the client can “clear their eyes” about these thoughts and feelings and replace them with positive ones. For clients who are struggling with their emotions or those who find that they have triggers, DBT can prove to be successful.

Monte Nido offers a range of therapy options including CBT and DBT. Also, they offer interpersonal and psychodynamic group therapy. Special groups address various topics including feelings and food, relapse prevention, stress, assertiveness and more.

9. Can You Treat Co-Occurring Conditions?

Eating disorders don’t exist in a vacuum. Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are known to co-occur in as many as 50 percent of eating disorder cases. When first entering a facility for eating disorders, a full medical, psychiatric and psychological assessment should be performed. During this assessment, a client’s co-occurring conditions should be noted so their presence can be addressed during the formulation of the treatment plan.

The philosophy at Monte Nido involves the thorough assessment and treatment of any co-occurring conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, depression, bipolar disorder. Please note that severe cases of substance addiction and intensive psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia should receive focused care – they can be as deadly as the co-occurring eating disorder.

10. What Kinds of Alternative and Experiential Therapies Are There?

There are various activities which can accentuate and complement evidence-based treatments like CBT and DBT. Experiential therapies such as psychodrama, art, movement, and music provide a place for people in treatment to get creative, express themselves and experience new things.

Other options that focus on being physically fit include nature walks, orthopedic services, yoga, chiropractic massage, dance and movement classes, and other mindful movement techniques. Mindfulness is a central component of Monte Nido’s treatment methodology with a meditation group, yoga programs, and one-on-one mindfulness sessions serving as methods of promoting self-awareness.

Enriching, relaxing and fun outings and experiences — both those that have a food component and those that don’t — are also part of the treatment plan for Monte Nido clients. Pottery, jewelry making, bowling, museums, equine therapy, plays, restaurants, beach outings and more are available.

Make Sure the Program Is Right for You

When it comes to entering a residential eating disorder facility, or any other kind of program, it behooves you or your loved one to learn as much as you can beforehand. Monte Nido takes great pride in our programs, which have been developed over 20-plus years of helping people with eating disorders, and our admissions team is happy to answer all your questions. Give us a call at 888.891.2590 to speak with a representative today.


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.