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Sometimes parents of an adolescent experiencing an eating disorder don’t believe they need the level of treatment provided at a residential facility. Many parents may also be concerned about placing their teen or pre-teen in a residential treatment facility. There are many myths and misconceptions regarding residential treatment that have kept families from seeking out treatment. Understandably, parents and their children would have concerns regarding care in a residential type of setting. It’s important, however, that they have accurate information to make the best decisions possible. The following are several myths about residential treatment for adolescents.

1. Treatment Is in a Sterile, Hospital Setting

Many people, especially adolescents, are fearful of being in a hospital setting for a lengthy amount of time. While some treatment centers have a sterile, hospital-like atmosphere, not all facilities are the same.

Many treatment centers today offer a warm, home-like setting. They are designed to resemble the way most people live at home and don’t look like a hospital. Beautifully decorated rooms help individuals relax and feel more comfortable right from the start. Luxurious surroundings located in tranquil settings can help a person feel safe and secure when starting treatment. Residents often learn to prepare and eat meals in a kitchen as they would have at home. Whether a person is experiencing anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or another type of condition, treatment is possible in a comfortable, relaxing setting. Besides an appealing physical environment treatment facilities offer a variety of stimulating activities. Games, art therapy, and a variety of group sessions are often part of the daily program at a residential center. 

2. Patients Are Kept from Family & Friends 

Many younger individuals have never been away from their families for more than a night or two. Adolescents, along with their parents, may have misconceptions regarding how often they’ll be able to see their family.

Many facilities are now including families as part of the treatment process. When visiting a center it’s important to ask how family members can be included in the treatment plan. Even when the family is not around there are often times when residents can make phone calls or have access to a computer so emails can be sent. Between technology and personal contact, adolescents are often given many opportunities to stay connected to family. Family connections throughout treatment are not only allowed but usually encouraged. Research is increasingly showing that family involvement is beneficial to the success of almost any type of treatment plan. According to the National Institutes of Health, Family Based Treatment is one of the primary types of treatment used for adolescents with eating disorders. Facilities are now including families as part of the treatment process. When visiting a center it’s important to ask how family members can be included in the treatment plan and what type of schedule they have for visits.

3. Residential Facilities Provide a One-Size-Fits-All Type of Treatment

Most people don’t know how many different types of therapy are now available and how they can be customized to each individual. A quality residential center will individually access each person upon admission and with a team of professionals, create a unique treatment plan. The following are just a few of the many therapies that may be used during the treatment process:

  • Family Therapy – There are different types of family therapies that are used for the treatment of eating disorders, especially when working with adolescents. The Maudsley Method is a specific type of therapy that can be especially effective for treating adolescents with eating disorders. The treatment is usually broken down into three distinct segments and parents are viewed as part of the solution, not the problem.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is considered one of the best therapies that can be used for Bulimia and Anorexia counseling. This therapy enables individuals to change negative thought patterns and eventually change their eating behaviors.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – This is a therapy that promotes mindfulness in regard to eating.  The Association for Contextual Behavioral Science states that ACT helps individuals make positive connections with their thoughts and feelings.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – DBT emphasizes changing behaviors that negatively affect eating. The individual learns skills to better tolerate stress and regulate emotions. This therapy is based on CBT but puts more emphasis on social and emotional factors. 
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) – This therapy focuses on an individual’s personal relationships and provides skills for improving each relationship and developing better social skills.

The best facilities will start by doing a thorough assessment of each individual. A treatment plan will be put together that takes into account each person’s unique needs. Treatment plans are tailored not only for the individual but for the specific eating disorder. An anorexia nervosa treatment plan will be different from a plan designed to help a person who has Bulimia. Many individuals experiencing an eating disorder will also have co-occurring disorders that also require treatment. These could include substance addictions, depression, or anxiety. A detailed plan can be put together that addresses these concerns as well. Treatment may also need to be altered throughout the process. A team of professionals will continually monitor individuals to see how each individual is progressing and make changes as needed. Everything from the type of therapy used and the medication each person receives to the meals and activities they engage in will likely change throughout the time they are in treatment.

4. Residents Can’t Choose What They Eat 

Younger individuals, especially those experiencing an eating disorder, might be very concerned that their food choices will be severely limited. Anorexia nervosa in adolescence, as well as several other types of eating disorders, will often cause a person to become extremely selective regarding food choices.

A quality treatment facility will strive to work with an individual when planning meals and snacks. A trained dietician, as well as other medical professionals, can work with a person to create an eating plan that is effective for treatment as well as appetizing for the person. Many treatment facilities will provide guidance when it comes to prepping and eating meals and will encourage a person to slowly gain more control over the process. As residents grow more confident in their ability to make good food choices they are given more control over everything from selecting foods to planning and prepping meals. The goal is to enable them to independently choose and prepare the best foods possible. As improved eating skills are learned during treatment, individuals will be given greater opportunities to make their own food choices. The following are several aspects of treatment that individuals can find in a high-quality treatment facility.

  • Meals that are based on both personal preference as well as nutritional needs
  • Advice and counseling from a registered dietitian
  • Being able to eat out at a restaurant with staff support
  • Being able to have meals with family while still in treatment

5. Adolescents Will Fall Behind in School

Being taken out of school and falling behind is a concern, particularly for parents of a child with an eating disorder. People may be hesitant to send a school-age child to a residential treatment center during the school year for this reason. When an adolescent is experiencing an eating disorder it may be extremely detrimental, however, to wait until the end of a school year or even a semester to seek out treatment.

The truth is that a growing number of residential facilities will incorporate learning into the treatment program. There are treatment centers that will incorporate course work and academics into the daily schedule. This can be accomplished whether the individual is in college or much younger. Online education as well as bringing in tutors to work with a child can be arranged in a way that will fit the child’s unique educational needs. When seeking treatment for any type of eating disorder it’s important to remember that it’s possible for individuals to receive treatment as well as continue their education.

6. Residential Treatment isn’t Affordable

The cost of treatment can be a concern for many families. It is, unfortunately, one of the primary reasons many individuals never seek treatment for many types of addictions and disorders.

Many facilities will work with families to make treatment as affordable as possible. During the admissions process trained financial professionals are often available to assist families when they navigate through the insurance process. Different types of insurance will sometimes cover residential treatment as well as other types of treatment options. A few questions to ask include the following:

  • Is there a deductible and how much is it?
  • Is there a co-pay for medications or other specific services?
  • Is medical detox for a co-occurring disorder covered?
  • How many days, weeks, etc. is treatment covered?

Some facilities will even assist families when contacting the insurance company and help create a financial plan that is affordable and easy to understand. Whether a family is looking for anorexia nervosa treatment or a program for some other type of condition, it’s important to understand that residential treatment can be affordable. Finally, it’s important to calculate what treatment is worth in regard to a person’s life and not just in monetary terms. Successfully working through an eating disorder is definitely worth the time and money that an individual would put into treatment. 

7. Recovery is Rare

After living with an eating disorder for many years, some individuals may begin to lose hope that recovery is possible. Families may be overwhelmed by what they have experienced thus far trying to help a loved one with an eating disorder. They may even have already gone through a program and did not receive the results they had hoped for.

The truth is treatment can and does often work. It’s important to remember that getting better is a process. Several factors often contribute to the success rates of treatment. These could include the duration of the condition, accurately diagnosing and treating any co-occurring disorders, and finding a quality treatment facility. Most research supports the idea that the longer a person stays in treatment the more successful it is likely to be. This means that after staying at a residential facility it’s usually recommended to transition to outpatient treatment. One of the primary keys to success involves choosing a residential treatment center with a proven track record. A quality program will provide outcomes that support the effectiveness of their treatment.

Why Choose Clementine?

Once a person understands the many myths and misconceptions surrounding treatment, finding a residential facility is the next step. It’s important to take the time to research facilities and ask the necessary questions to determine which residential center provides the best treatment. There are several centers throughout the country featuring comfortable, home-like settings in luxurious facilities. Clementine offers the highest level of care available outside of a hospital setting. They provide 24-hour nursing supervision and the most advanced psychiatric care available. Clementine also integrates education into the daily schedule of each adolescent. 

Families are strongly encouraged to be part of the entire treatment process. Clementine offers weekly family therapy either on or off-site, parent groups, and a parent education program. Parents are also given direct access to the teams providing treatment. Family integration is critical to the success of an adolescent treatment program and Clementine provides a comprehensive plan that thoroughly involves family. Clementine features an experienced team of professionals that provide a holistic approach to treatment. They not only offer advanced therapies and medical care but a compassionate, caring team of professionals who genuinely care for each individual. Contact Clementine to find out how they can create a unique treatment plan.

How Self-Care Can Help While in Anorexia Treatment Near You

Areas We Serve:

Houston, TX | South Miami, FL | Malibu Lake, CA | Naperville, IL | Portland, OR | Briarcliff Manor, NY | Twin Lakes, VA


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.