After months, years, or maybe even decades of swallowing laxatives instead of food, torturing your weary body with endless exercise, mindlessly devouring the contents of your refrigerator, and spending hours vomiting in your porcelain commode – you’ve made a decision.
A decision that may not just change the course of your life, but also save it.
You’ve made the decision that you are ready to salvage your moribund corpse and admit yourself into an eating disorder treatment center.
Today, there is certainly no shortage of dedicated eating disorder treatment facilities here in the United States. Don’t believe me? Just ask your good ol’ friend Google where some facilities are located and you’ll find treatment centers stretching from east to west. The problem is though that far too many treatment centers are doling out treatment regimens that are not just astronomical in price, but also almost completely ineffective.
So how do you, someone desperate to get your eating disorder in remission, find that hidden gem of a treatment center in a vast ocean of facilities willing to take your money, but leave you sicker than ever?
Well my friend, you’re in the right place because this post right here will give you ALL THE INFORMATION you need to find an eating disorder treatment facility that is BEST FOR YOU!
So without further adieu, let’s get started!
1. THIS IS A LIFE-OR-DEATH SITUATION, NOT A TIME FOR A VACATION.
Horseback riding, massages, yoga, scenic hikes – believe it or not, I am not describing some five-star retreat center, I am describing just some of the services that you are likely to find at a treatment facility for the deadliest psychiatric illness – eating disorders. Although this menu of luxurious so-called “treatments” may make you want to fill out the admission paperwork right then and there, you need to remember that you are currently suffering from a serious brain disorder that has no problem with leading you to your grave. What you need right now isn’t a spa, it’s a credible facility that focuses all of its resources on providing you with evidence-based therapies such as CBT, DBT, and Maudsley.
Still need a little more convincing that you should not be considering spa-like eating disorder programs? Well let me provide you with an little analogy. Let’s say you just got diagnosed with cancer, a merciless disease, and you now need to find a place to receive treatment. I can guarantee you that your search would not include looking for places that offer equine or art therapy, you would be looking for top-notch hospitals that know the ins-and-outs of your cancer and offer treatments that have been shown to provide the best outcomes. Why should it be any different when looking for a place to treat your eating disorder?
2. KNOW WHAT WORKS.
Before you start searching for an eating disorder treatment center, it is CRUCIAL that you are aware of the therapies that have been shown to be the most effective at treating eating disorders. What are these treatments you ask? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
- Complete Weight Restoration – When your brain is malnourished, it is IMPOSSIBLE for any form of physical and cognitive healing to take place. A good treatment center will make weight restoration and nutritional rehabilitation its first priority. Yes, I know that is frightening, but if you want your brain and your body to heal, you need to be at weight that allows your body to do that. If you want to learn more about how crucial proper weight restoration is? Check out this lecture from Dr. Julie O’Toole, one of the most knowledgeable eating disorder physicians in the world. You can also purchase her book, “Give Food a Chance” .
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Family-Based Treatment
3. DON’T JUST GOOGLE IT.
Never just rely on Google to help you find eating disorder treatment centers. Here is a list of my FAVORITE online resources that will help you locate a treatment center that fits your needs.
- EDreferral.com – If you are looking for an incredibly comprehensive directory of eating disorder treatment centers in the USA, Canada, or Australia, this site is a gold mine.
- US Eating Disorders Treatment Referral Guide: This guide contains a bounty of information on eating disorder treatment centers across the United States. Each entry on a treatment center tells you exactly the conditions the center treats, what demographic of patients it treats, the levels of care that are offered, the types of treatments it uses (WHICH YOU SHOULD KNOW BY NOW IS SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO HAVE), whether or not it takes insurance, and if it accepts Medicaid or Medicare.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS.
Once you find a treatment center that you think is potential candidate, CALL THEM UP AND ASK QUESTIONS! Don’t know what to ask? Here’s a list!
- How long has your center been treating eating disorders and are you familiar with the 2013 Clinical Practice Recommendations for Residential and Inpatient Eating Disorder Programs published by the American Academy for Eating Disorders? (Make sure to check out the guidelines before you call the center . . .obviously).
- don’t live in the United States? Check out this site for treatment guidelines in your country!)
- What is your belief on the etiology of eating disorders? (make sure they recognize that eating disorders are biologically-based brain disorders that are NOT choices and that they are not the fault of the patient or patient’s family)
- What is your treatment philosophy? What treatments do you offer? How much time is spent on each of those treatments? (make sure the MAJORITY IF NOT ALL OF THE TIME IS SPENT ON EVIDENCE-BASED TREATMENTS!!!!). Can you explain the science behind each of your therapies?
- Is your program hospital-based or allied with a hospital-program sponsor? (if you want good treatment, THEY SHOULD BE!)
- Are all you clinical staff members trained in evidence-based therapies? What are their credentials?
- What is the training and background of the therapists you have on staff? How long have they been treating eating disorder patients? What kind of credentials do these therapists have?
- Who is apart of my treatment team (centers should provide the four major components of eating disorder treatment which include medical/nursing, nutrition, psychological care, and psychiatric care)? How often do I meet with each member of my treatment team? How does my treatment team coordinate my care? Do they work together?
- Does your center provide education for family members and family therapies? How does your center keep my family involved in my care?
- Does your center engage in quality improvements efforts? If so, how? Do you evaluate your outcomes and if so, how? Can you provide me with data on these outcomes? (they should evaluate their outcomes and be transparent about them).
For more information on how you can evaluate a treatment center, click here!
5. RECOGNIZE RED FLAGS
As you question and investigate an eating disorder treatment center, you MUST be aware of red flags.
Here is a link to an wonderful article by Dr. Sarah Ravin, a psychologist who specializes in evidence-based treatments for eating disorders, on eating disorder treatment red flags.