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Teenage girls who have been diagnosed with eating disorders may require treatment to recover. Eating disorder treatment centers may provide multiple levels of care, the most common being residential treatment or day treatment. If you are a parent in search of residential programs for teenagers, it may help to understand how these programs work and what you should look for to make sure you are getting your child the best treatment available.

What Is Residential Treatment?

Eating disorders are complex medical problems that typically require professional treatment. These disorders are usually multi-faceted, involving medical, psychological, emotional and environmental factors. Many teenagers who have eating disorders are also diagnosed with co-occurring problems, such as body dysmorphic disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses. In addition, teenagers who have eating disorders will often have a negative body image or feelings of insecurity and a need for social isolation. Successful treatment of eating disorders requires professionals to address all aspects of the disorder, including the underlying causes of the disorder and the issues that contribute to its continuance. Likewise, medical care is often required for teenagers with eating disorders, as these disorders can lead to a wide range of physical problems.

Because of the complexity of eating disorders, it may be necessary to admit your child to a residential treatment program. Residential eating disorder treatment provides twenty-four hour care, including housing, for the client. This differs from day treatment programs, which act as a step down after residential treatment and allow clients to return to their daily routine when they aren’t actively engaged in treatment.

Residential eating disorder treatment provides the most comprehensive treatment plan for clients. Some of the benefits of residential treatment include:

  • Quality time in treatment: When a teenager is living inside the treatment facility, she is able to spend more time engaged in therapy. Even when she is not actively engaged in therapy, she is likely to be focusing on her recovery as there are no outside distractions. The more time she devotes to the treatment process, the more likely she will be to recover from the eating disorder and avoid a relapse in the future.
  • Convenience: A teenager in day treatment will need to travel to and from the facility for each day of therapy. A teenager enrolled in a residential program will not need to travel to participate in treatment.
  • High levels of compliance: Since the teenager is living at the facility and participating in treatment throughout the day, she is likely to attend all of her sessions and complete the entire program.
  • More intensive experience: Residential treatment creates a more intensive, focused experience for teenagers. When teenagers are fully immersed in therapy, they are more likely to fully engage in their treatment plan, learn the true underlying causes of the disorder and develop positive coping skills to address potential triggers in the future.
  • Structure: Residential treatment programs provide a comforting sense of structure during as teenagers are required to follow a set schedule each day, even when they are not involved in a treatment session. The stability and predictability add to the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Additional services: Residential eating disorder treatment centers provide a wide range of treatment services for their clients; including individual therapy, group therapy, exposure experiences, movement therapy, nutrition counseling, etc.
  • Enhanced chances of recovery: In general, residential eating disorder treatment provides clients with a great chance of recovery.

What to Look for in Residential Treatment Programs

Different eating disorder treatment center structure their residential treatment programs differently, based on their philosophies and the populations they serve. To choose the best program for a teenage girl who has an eating disorder, it is important to compare all of the available programs carefully.  Below are some of the most important attributes to look for in a residential treatment program.

1. Location

When a parent admits his or her teenage daughter in a residential eating disorder recovery program, the teenager will remain at the facility until the treatment program is completed. However, in most cases, the treatment center will encourage visitation, and participation in treatment (i.e. family therapy sessions), from loved ones. For this reason, it is best to choose a residential treatment program in a location close enough to allow for ease of travel.

2. Quality of treatment

Perhaps the most important thing to look for in a residential eating disorder recovery program is high-quality treatment. To ensure a teenager is enrolled in an appropriate and effective treatment program, parents should investigate the program’s treatment approach, success rate and any other relevant information.

3. Cost

For many parents of teenagers with eating disorders, the affordability of an eating disorder recovery program will be an important consideration. All of these programs charge a fee for their services, but some charge more than others. Likewise, while some residential treatment centers may require clients to pay out-of-pocket for treatment, others accept payments from insurance providers. Parents who have insurance coverage can lower their out-of-pocket expenses by selecting a facility that accepts their insurance plan or that will work on a case-by-case basis. If a parent is unable to pay his or her part of the treatment costs upfront, it is important to find a facility that offers payment plans.

4. Comfortable accommodations

Because teenagers live on-site when enrolled in a residential treatment program, considering the program’s accommodations is important. Teenagers may be more likely to comply with treatment if they are in a comfortable environment that mimics “home” as much as possible. Before admitting a teenager in an eating disorder treatment program, parents should tour the facility and pay close attention to the sleeping rooms, dining areas and recreational spaces.

5. Customized treatment

When treating eating disorders in teens, there is no one treatment approach that will work for every client. Every client’s experience is unique and eating disorder treatment services should be customized to meet the client’s individual needs. The best treatment programs will perform a detailed assessment of the client’s condition and use this information to create a treatment plan tailored specifically to that individual client.

6. Good reputation

It is generally best to select a treatment facility with a reputation for providing high-quality services and proven effective treatment. Parents can learn about the reputations of different facilities by talking to past clients, reading online reviews and testimonials on each facility’s website. If limited information is available, parents can ask the facility to provide contact information for references.

7. A variety of eating disorder treatment modalities

A treatment center should provide a comprehensive list of eating disorder treatment services in order to meet each client’s needs and provide a truly customized treatment plan. When comparing different residential programs,  parents should research the different options available at each facility. Some services that may be available include individual psychotherapy, group therapy, family therapy, life skills training, educational sessions, nutritional counseling, medical services and alternative therapies.

8. Specialization

Treating eating disorders in different populations require unique approaches. For example, an adult male who has been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa may not benefit from the same treatment services as a young girl with bulimia nervosa. For this reason, parents of teenage girls with eating disorders are encouraged to look for a treatment program that focuses specifically on treating this population. A residential treatment program that focuses on teenage girls will be more likely to understand the approaches that work best within this population. In addition, teenage girls are at times more comfortable during treatment if surrounded by peers.

Ideally, it is best to find a program that meets all of these requirements. However, if parents are unable to find such a program, they should focus on those characteristics that are most important to them.

How Residential Treatment Works at Clementine

At Clementine, we specialize in treating eating disorders in teens. We recognize that every client is different and customize treatment programs to meet the needs of the unique individual. We employ a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to treatment with the goal of supporting each client on the path to true recovery. We provide our clients the skills and techniques necessary to return to leave treatment and continue on the path to recovery.

When a teenager is admitted to Clementine, we perform a full assessment to determine her psychiatric and medical needs, as well as individual characteristics that will impact our approach to treatment. Based on this information, we develop a customized treatment plan that includes individual psychotherapy, group therapy, exposure therapy, family therapy, medical care, life skills training, movement, nutrition counseling and more.

Each of our therapists works with no more than four adolescents at one time, ensuring every client receives dedicated, one-on-one attention. Each client will participate in carefully selected exposures to help her prepare for challenges she will face after leaving treatment. Before the client is released from treatment, she and her family will collaborate with our team to create an aftercare plan designed to help the client maintain her recovery.

When treating eating disorders in teens, Clementine employs a unique level system. Each level within the system provides different challenges and privileges for clients. The purpose of this system is to encourage clients to set goals for themselves, work toward these goals and gradually take on more responsibility for their own recovery.

Clementine provides treatment to teenage girls with all types of eating disorders. If you are the parent of a teenage girl who has an eating disorder, please contact Clementine today to learn more about our residential treatment program.