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Effective eating disorder treatment programs center their care process around helping patients replace disordered thoughts and behaviors with healthier alternatives. As a part of this process, it is important to replace negative thought patterns with positive ones as well. This restructuring process requires the precise use of language that empowers and uplifts the patient.

With simple shifts in language, eating disorder specialists can provide their patients hope and empower them to work toward the elimination of their symptoms. Utilize this guide to explore the terms “recovering” and “recovered” and learn how effective eating disorder treatment differentiates between the two.

Difference Between Recovering and Recovered

When it comes to helping patients make a full recovery from their eating disorder, providing patients supportive language and actions is key to success. Recovered, for example, expresses finality in reaching a state of freedom from eating disorder symptoms; while ‘recovering’ describes an individual still on the path to their full recovery.

When using the term ‘recovering,’ patients may still be in a residential or day treatment eating disorder treatment program, or they may be receiving outpatient support. They may still engage in disordered thoughts and behaviors while ‘recovering’ or may be virtually symptom free. In either case, after enduring eating disorder symptoms for a long period of time, patients need hope they can become and remain recovered for life.

Characteristics of a Recovered Individual

While in recovery, individuals with eating disorders experience less or no symptoms, lessened worries about relapse and increased confidence in themselves and their recovery.

Individuals in recovery will work toward body acceptance while at eating disorder treatment centers – and after graduating from the program. They are working toward acceptance of their body shape and size, including all perceived flaws, without the urge to make changes. The numbers shown on the scale have less of a profound impact on the way these patients see themselves.

Fully recovered patients will have lessened urges to engage in destructive behaviors or thought patterns. Their relationship with food will be more mindful and they will exhibit more appropriate eating patterns and behaviors. In most cases, they do not rely on eating disorder behaviors to avoid stressors in their lives or cope with difficult issues.

Benefits of Having Hope of Becoming Fully Recovered

Hope is an integral part of the process of becoming recovered from an eating disorder. Without hope, patients may not see a way out of the disordered thought patterns and behaviors caused by their condition and its underlying issues. Using recovery terminology can help restore hope by clearly defining the end result patients are working toward at the eating disorder treatment centers.

Giving patients hope can inspire them to embrace positive thought patterns. This sense of hope can provide feelings of contentment and the ability to improve perspective. This broad scope of vision allows for improved empowerment through insights from care providers, family members and other important individuals.

When patients have hope they can reach their goals of becoming recovered, they are more motivated to stick with the program offered at their trusted eating disorder treatment centers. Hope can even offer protection from depression, especially episodes triggered by feelings of despair. With the promotion of hope every step of the way, eating disorder recovery specialists give their patients the motivation they need to pursue wellness by progressing through the level system.

Role of Fully Recovered Staff in Eating Disorder Treatment

Effective eating disorder treatment centers may have fully recovered staff on hand to support patients on their journey toward becoming recovered. Prior to becoming staff members, these individuals worked through an eating disorder recovery program to overcome their own disordered thoughts and behaviors.  The fully recovered staff utilize their unique insights to provide patients with the support they need through every level of care. They have confidence they can help their patients overcome the challenges encountered in eating disorder treatment and achieve their recovery goals.

Patients may appreciate or connect with the support from individuals who have directly experienced the challenges they are currently facing in treatment. Recovered staff can model a positive mindset and resilient approach to recovery that can guide patients in eating disorder treatment programs. Through this modeling, patients can see that recovery is possible.

When working with recovered staff, patients can trust the challenge experiences and exposure exercises align with their ability to successfully complete those activities. Patients can confidently move through the eating disorder treatment process, knowing they have the support they need to overcome the challenges ahead. For additional support, fully recovered staff collaborate with the patients’ family members to strengthen social bonds for improved success in becoming and remaining recovered.

A strong connection to eating disorder specialists can help patients maintain the hope they need to move through treatment with purpose. Patients benefit from developing a close working relationship with their care providers and sharing challenges and successes as a team. Providers’ ability to build hope and motivation of their patients often results in improved outcomes through every level of care and after graduation from the treatment program.

How Family Involvement Improves Treatment Outcomes

Family members can also help patients maintain a high level of hope throughout the path to recovery. Strong connections with loved ones can directly improve hope through the sharing of positive outlooks and insights. Establishing connections throughout the treatment process can also help alleviate feelings of shame. With the banishment of shame and judgment, patients can focus on putting their eating disorder behind them. Keeping family involved helps eliminate the urge to isolate, which can complicate the eating disorder recovery process otherwise.

Effective eating disorder treatment centers promote family involvement through close collaboration with the care team and direct access to each provider. The treatment centers may host weekly family therapy in individual and group settings for the development of deeper connections and insights. Education opportunities abound for family members interested in learning about eating disorder symptoms, causes and treatment. These educational opportunities may arise as seminars, classes and support groups that family members can participate in on a regular basis.

Families play an important role in the transition from eating disorder treatment centers to home. Prior to this step, patients complete exposure activities that build their tolerance for stressors experienced in real life situations. Families may eat out together or dine at home to reintegrate the patient back into a regular routine and habits without worry about relapse.

Throughout this process, fully recovered staff carefully monitor their patients for difficulties managing the exposure opportunities and adjust the challenge level as needed. Patients work within the level framework established by the treatment center to achieve their goals of becoming fully recovered.

Characteristics of Effective Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

Effective eating disorder treatment centers help their patients reach and maintain full recovery using comprehensive care plans personalized to each patient. Care should be provided in a home-like setting to ease the transition from home to the treatment center. The residential treatment center should keep patients safe and comfortable at all times, so they can focus on moving toward their eating disorder recovery goals.

Patients should undergo a thorough assessment to evaluate eating disorder symptoms and any co-occurring conditions. With the identification of the exact conditions affecting the patient, treatment providers can create a personalized treatment plan. The eating disorder treatment process should address all co-occurring conditions for the full and sustained recovery of the patient.

While in eating disorder treatment, each patient receives care from a full team of doctors, nurses and mental health professionals. The high ratio of staff members to patients ensures everyone has access to the caregivers they need for guidance and support. The fully recovered staff should keep their focus on facilitating the success of their patients with the highest quality of care.

Excellent treatment centers utilize a comprehensive level system to help their patients move toward becoming fully recovered. The level system provides clear goals that patients can work toward every step of the way. The goals may revolve around the replacement of disordered thoughts and behaviors with healthier alternatives or real-life encounters with normally triggering situations. Patients should have opportunities to set their own goals and guide their real-life experiences to safely push their limits and achieve success in becoming recovered.

Upon graduating from eating disorder treatment centers, patients receive help creating a comprehensive plan for aftercare outside the program. The aftercare plan centers around the exact needs of the patient and the demands of maintaining recovery from their eating disorders and co-occurring conditions. Treatment facilities tend to involve the family in the aftercare process to help with the transition home and patient’s ability to remain recovered. Every step of the way, eating disorder treatment centers should use supportive language and practices to assist their patients in remaining hopeful and motivated to achieve wellness..

Acquiring Care from Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists

People with eating disorders can reach out to acquire support from eating disorder specialists on their own or with help from their loved ones. Patients and their family members are welcome to give treatment center admission specialists a call anytime with questions and concerns. The admissions specialists will assess the needs of the patient and offer guidance to them or their family members to facilitate the acquisition of treatment.

Admissions specialists can set up an intake appointment date after completing the screening questionnaire and collecting the patient’s medical history information. These specialists also help patients overcome the barriers to care through helpful financial planning services. On the scheduled admissions date, the care team will meet with the patient to introduce them to the program and provide a tour of the building. Throughout this process, patients will learn what to expect from the program and what is expected from them through each level of care.

Patients and their loved ones can inquire about the eating disorder treatment programs available at Clementine by calling the treatment team at 855-900-2221.


Melissa Spann, PhD, LMHC, CEDS-S

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, 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.