Empowering the Healthy Self

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Clinical Director Zanita Zody, PhD and the Clementine Portland team help clients to empower the voice of their healthy self in order to challenge the eating disorder self voice. In her blog post, Dr. Zody gives insight into how to strengthen the healthy self voice and support client’s journey to full recovery.

Anyone who is intimately familiar with an eating disorder knows how damaging and destructive that voice can be. “You are disgusting,” “I can’t believe you ate that,” “If you don’t exercise every day you will get soft and gross.” This voice taunts and torments in a way that no one should have to endure. For those of you who have held on to hope and seen it first hand, you have also heard the voice of the healthy self; reminding you that there is more to life than the eating disorder. “I know how hard it is to nourish your body but it is worth it,” “your value is not determined by the size of your jeans,” “your friends like you for who you are, not how you look.” Differentiating between these two voices and empowering the healthy self (HS) can be an important part of recovery.

It is widely accepted that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one of the treatments of choice for eating disorders. CBT challenges distorted and irrational thoughts that lead to maladaptive behavior. Reiff and Reiff (1998) found that individuals with a DSM-defined eating disorder think about food and weight between 70% and 110% of the day (dream time accounting for the additional 10%). The voice of the HS can be used to challenge those ED thoughts and behaviors. Initially, this voice may be difficult to identify so it can be helpful for the therapist to point it out. From there, the individual can start journaling dialogues between the HS and ED or engaging in them internally. However it is done, the HS should have the last word.

Fear and uncertainty often accompanies the reduction of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and in their absence emptiness is often felt. Returning to the eating disorder or other self-destructive behaviors may fill this void. On the other hand, if the healthy self is simultaneously nurtured and strengthened, there will be no room left for the eating disorder. It is also important to honor and respect the eating disorder as it is part of the individual and has served an important function in his or her life. Discovering what that is and allowing the healthy self to take over those responsibilities in adaptive and supportive ways can help lead to lasting recovery.

Reiff, D. and Reiff, KKL, “Time Spent Thinking About Food.” Healthy Weight Journal 12(6) (November/December 1998): 84.

For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine locations with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.

 

 


A Day in the Life of Clementine Pinecrest Staff

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The staff at Clementine Pinecrest work hard together to support their clients on their journey to full recovery. Clinical Director Bertha Tavarez, PsyD shares an inside look at what it’s like to be part of this special team in this week’s blog post.

At Clementine Pinecrest in Miami, FL, our office is embedded in a diverse treatment space where clients receive care and where they rest after a long day. We form part of the Clementine home, each member a thread that is weaved into a tapestry of healing and recovery. The staff shares one communal office, a living, breathing organism on its own. On any given day, the staff office is filled with inaudible sounds: laughter, insurance calls, parent update calls, and consultation among others! At Clementine Pinecrest our doors are as open as our hearts. No walls divide us and we are just a shoulder tap away from connection. We believe that this level of connection among the staff gets effortlessly transmitted into the undercurrent of our client community. Clients have often joked that Clementine Pinecrest staff is, well, “squad goals.” It’s empowering to know that we as providers are modeling the power of connection.

If I had to pick one central philosophy for the Clementine Pinecrest house it would be, “We are all responsible for the energy that we bring into the room.” We teach this lesson to our clients in sessions and groups, but most importantly we practice what we preach. We write each other gratitude notes on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to see a bright colored envelope placed on my desk as I am walking in to start my day. We also leave room for fun and creativity, and catch the clients off guard when we sing a rendition of “Let it Go!” A Clementine birthday is a special affair, as we spend weeks planning themed parties for unsuspecting staff members! It is an honor for me to be a member of this amazing team!

 

For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine locations with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.


Seven Key Developmental Needs Series: Meaningful Participation and Positive Social Interactions

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IMelissa McLain - 03 - TOP CHOICEn the second post on the seven developmental keys series, Senior Director of East Coast Clinical Programming Melissa McLain, PhD, CEDS shares about the next two keys: meaningful participation and positive social interactions. Dr. McLain explains how Clementine adolescent treatment program supports adolescents in learning to meaningfully engage with themselves, leading to positive social interactions with others as well.

The Center for Early Adolescence has defined fundamental developmental needs during adolescence as the following: Self-Definition, Meaningful Participation, Competence, Creative Expression, Physical Activity, Social Interactions and Structure. Today I want to write about the combination of Meaningful Participation, and Positive Social Interactions and how those can be integrated in treating adolescent girls.

Meaningful Participation:  Research from the Center for Early Adolescence stresses that adolescents “need to participate in activities that shape their lives.” That is, they need opportunities to identify, develop, and use individual talents, skills, and interests in the context of the real world. They need to participate in activities and experiences that allow them to reflect on and shape their personal values, beliefs, and goals. They need opportunities to make positive connections between their personal priorities and the needs and interests of others in order to become contributing members of the local and global community.

Positive Social Interactions: Though the family remains of primary importance to early adolescents, they need increasing opportunities to experience positive social relationships that allow them to explore emerging ideas, views, values, and feelings with peers and adult friends.

When we treat teens we consistently ask them to “meaningfully participate” and thus “show up” while spending time with us in treatment. We are working to engage them in their individual, family and group therapies, in their school time, in their social time with their peers and in time spent engaging in exposures and challenges.

It can be quite a challenge to fully participate in life when an eating disorder is taking up so much of one’s time. However, the great gift of engagement is connection. We find that oftentimes, even while in the midst of doing what may be the hardest thing they have ever encountered in their life before, our teens are gifted the experience of fostering and enjoying true connections with their family, their peers, the staff, and, most importantly, themselves. Being able to meaningfully engage with their newly discovered “healthy self” fosters improved self-esteem and oftentimes results in an increase in positive social interactions. As Daniel Siegal says in Mindsight, “The brain is a social organ, and our relationships with one another are not a luxury but an essential nutrient for our survival”. When treating adolescents, we feel privileged to be able to foster this improved connection with self and others.

For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine location with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.


What If My Daughter Develops an Eating Disorder?

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angie-color-head-shotAngie Viets, LCP is an eating disorder specialist who has dedicated her career to helping her clients recover. She shares her personal journey with an eating disorder as well as her professional experience in the field throughout her writing. In today’s post, Angie offers the unique perspective as a mother to a young daughter growing up with society’s pressures around body image. 

I’ll be honest – I worry about my sweet girl getting sucked into a world where she’s controlled by an eating disorder. Mothers have a fierce protective instinct to shield their children from harm. It is no wonder then, that the illness that consumed my every thought and decision, had damaging effects on my health, and robbed me of opportunities, would cause anxiety.

A study by the Keep It Real Campaign in 2012 reported that 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet. Another study found that 50% of 3-6-year-olds worry about being fat. People often don’t realize this, however, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses, as well as a high incidence of suicide. Given these grim statistics, how could I not want to spare her from this disorder; not to mention a world that is oozing with airbrushed images of objectified females.

I have a vivid memory of my daughter sitting on the kitchen counter as a toddler with nothing on but a pair of underwear and her brother’s football helmet. She’s smiling, perfectly content in a world that has yet to bombard her with messages about how she ‘should’ look. Her little tummy is full and round, just as it should be, and she’s unaware that as women we ‘should’ suck our stomachs in (who the hell came up with that idea?). I took a picture of her because I want to remind her that we ALL start out this way — playful, present in the moment, without a single worry about the body that is so miraculously allowing us to move and thrive.

My sweet Sophie is eight. In her eight years, she’s made two comments related to her body that stopped me in my tracks. The first time was in the dressing room at Gap when she realized she no longer wears a clothing size corresponding with her age. At age 8, she wears 10’s or 12’s. She genuinely seemed confused as she looked to me for an explanation.

We stopped. Right then and there, in the middle of the dressing room and had a talk sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor. “Honey, the people that make clothes make up random numbers for what size might work for your age. It’s just a guess; that’s all. And sometimes, those guesses might work for you, but maybe not.” Her little wheels were turning, “Oh, like when people guess that I’m in the fourth grade instead of the second grade.” Relieved, “Yes, just like that.” My message was intended to let her know that her body was not “wrong,” nor had she “done something wrong.”

The other comment came when she realized she was going to be a base, instead of a flyer on her little cheer squad. “Mom, I want to be lighter so I can be a flyer. Were you a flyer when you were a cheerleader?” Internally, I was panicking because my desire to protect her is so strong and, the reality is, weight is one variable when coaches make those decisions.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Here’s the deal sister, you are one of the oldest girls on your team, not to mention one of the very tallest girls, and that’s how they decide. If you were on a squad with girls that were older than you, you would be a flyer. And yes, I was a flyer because I wasn’t strong enough to be a base. You, on the other hand, are strong, and are likely one of the strongest girls on your squad.” She buckled her seatbelt, smiled, and flexed her guns while saying, “So what are we having for dinner tonight?”

My momma brain is highly emotional. My therapist brain, however, is logical and knows some things for sure:

  1. There is no one more qualified to know what to do if their daughter developed an eating disorder than someone who has recovered, and who has dedicated their career to helping others recover. I know the warning signs. I know early intervention is key. I’ve got this!
  1. We talk in our family about diversity, and how special it is that not everyone has the same skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or body type. Wouldn’t that be boring if we were all the same?
  1. We talk about strengths that are completely unrelated to appearance and more values-based. I ask, “Tell me what you did today that made you feel proud of yourself?”
  1. We also talk about when we felt ashamed, embarrassed or sad. My husband and I model this for them, saying things like, “Ugh, I felt so embarrassed today when I said something dumb in front of my colleagues.” Normalizing and actively expressing emotions, helps them get into the routine of this, so they don’t bury them and find maladaptive ways for coping.
  1. We don’t label food as “good” or “bad.” If I’m with a group of women, whether my kids are in earshot or not, if diets or body shaming comes up, I either change the subject or walk away. I don’t want them to think this is “normal” conversation. Not cool.
  1. We don’t go on diets in our house or eat separate meals from our kids. I grew up with a family member who would prepare beautiful meals and then as we all sat down to dig in, she would warm up a frozen Weight Watcher’s meal for herself. What kind of message does that send? Um, really?? So confusing!
  1. I also know that although my daughter sometimes seems like a mini-me, she’s not an extension of me. She’s her own little independent self. Yes, we share similarities, but we also have very separate stories. By the time I was her age, I had already gone through a significant trauma. Between my personality and environment, I was a prime candidate for developing an eating disorder. We are different in this way.
  1. Last, and probably most important of all, is that as mothers we desperately want to wrap our children, no matter what their age, in a protective cocoon, but we can’t. Truth be told, we wouldn’t want to either. Aren’t some of our deepest hurts and biggest failings where we learned the most about ourselves, witnessed our strength, and increased our humility?

Rumi says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” My professional passion and purpose were born out of my pain and suffering. The years I spent in solitude with my eating disorder, and what I learned from my hard-won fight to recover has driven me like a mad woman on a mission to help others. So do I want my child to have an eating disorder, hell no, but I also know I don’t want to dismiss the beauty of what could possibly be the outcome of any of her struggles.

So, to my mommy tribe out there who worry about their babes, let’s grab each other by the hand and join in a shared mission to support each other when we hurt over their hurts. We are all in this together!

Love + Light,

Angie

*Note – Please know that I’m not dismissing the risk for males developing eating disorders – I have two beloved son’s and intend to address boys in a future post.

 

For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine location with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.