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Eating Disorder Treatment and Recovery

Today’s blog post focuses on a big part of my practice: eating disorder treatment and recovery. I first entered the field of eating disorders as a Psych-Tech at The Renfrew Center, an eating disorder treatment center in Coconut Creek, Florida (with other locations around the country) that uses feminism in their recovery plans. Prior to that position, I didn’t know much about eating disorders, but I immediately knew it was the right path for me. I also worked at the Oliver-Pyatt Centers in South Miami in various positions, including Post-Doctoral Resident, Primary Therapist, Clinical Director of IOP/TLP, Director of Aftercare, and Residential Clinical Director.

In addition to my degree in Psychology, I’ve earned the distinction of Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). This certification denotes extensive training and experience in the field of eating disorders and protects clients from those who are not well-versed in this field. Ill-informed treatment can be detrimental to a client’s success and recovery.

Now that I’ve covered my background and passion for this work, let’s dig a little deeper into eating disorder treatment and recovery.

Eating Disorder Treatment

Treatment for eating disorders and disordered eating is very specialized and specific to the individual patient. Treatment may include individual therapy, family, and/or group therapy as well as meal support. Fortunately, all of these treatment options can be done via telehealth services, ensuring that every individual can get the help and support they need.

A patient may pursue individual therapy if they want to inspire change, improve their quality of life, and overcome an obstacle or mental health condition that puts them at risk, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder. During these 50-minute sessions, clients learn how to handle difficult situations, make decisions, and reach their goals.

Family therapy is focused on improving communication, resolving conflict, and/or supporting one or more family members on their recovery journey. These sessions, which last 50 to 90 minutes, focus on skills to deepen family connections. It can be used as a short-term supplement to individual therapy or as the primary means of therapy. Family therapy is often helpful for adolescents and teens struggling with eating disorders, as the love and support from adults in their lives play a vital role in their ultimate recovery.

Group therapy includes a therapist and three or more patients struggling with a similar problem, allowing them to offer one another a built-in support network, accountability partners, and new perspectives. These sessions usually meet once a week for an hour or longer, ensuring that everyone has time to participate and benefit from the process.

As an add-on to individual, family, and/or group therapy sessions, meal support offers emotional support during meal times to patients suffering from eating disorders. During these sessions, we work to improve mindful eating skills, address fear-food exposure, and unlearn eating disorder behaviors, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or over-chewing each bite.

Eating Disorder Recovery

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, there are five Stages of Change that make up the eating disorder recovery process: Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance/Relapse.

  1. Pre-Contemplation: At this point, the individual does not believe that they have a problem. Family and friends often begin to notice symptoms of an eating disorder or disordered eating, but the patient denies that they need help.

  2. Contemplation: Now, the individual is willing to admit that they have a problem. They’re open to receiving help but also very scared of change. Here, therapy can help identify the function of the eating disorder, allowing the patient to understand why it is in their life and how it no longer serves them.

  3. Preparation: The person is ready to change but uncertain about what to do. During therapy sessions, they focus on developing coping skills, such as boundary setting and assertiveness, as well as ways to deal with negative eating disorder thoughts. The treatment team, which often includes the individual, a therapist, a nutritionist, a physician, and family members, develops a plan of action.

  4. Action: Next, the patient implements their treatment strategy and works to overcome their eating disorder.

  5. Maintenance/Relapse: After the Action stage is sustained for six months or longer, the person can enter the Maintenance stage. Here, they continue to practice their new behaviors and use healthy self-care and coping skills. They may experience a Relapse but continue to work towards their recovery. A patient can discontinue treatment when they’ve mastered the five Stages of Change, can maintain these changes with acquired coping skills, have a relapse prevention plan in place, and are willing to resume treatment in the future if necessary.

As I mentioned in a recent blog post introducing myself, my favorite part of my job is seeing people through to full recovery. I am proud to be a part of this process and guide my clients as they break free from their eating disorder and become the best version of themselves.

Reach out to Dr. Kelli Malkasian, PsyD, C.E.D.S. at Coral Reef Counseling, and schedule a free consultation or telehealth appointment today!

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