In the third post on the seven developmental keys series, Senior Director of East Coast Clinical Programming Melissa McLain Coffin, PhD, CEDS shares about the next two keys: Competence and Achievement. Dr. McLain explains how Clementine adolescent treatment program supports adolescents in shifting their focus from seeing their eating disorder as a source of achievement to other areas of their life that they can feel successful and competent.
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 Competence and Achievement and how those can be integrated in the treatment of adolescents with eating disorders.
The need for both competency and achievement are central for successful adolescent development. For many of our teens, the eating disorder has frequently become a source of achievement, if not the main source of achievement, for them in their lives. In order to build a meaningful life in their recovery, it is important for our treatment teams at Clementine to help them discover other ways to achieve and feel competent in their lives.
There are several ways clinicians strive to help teens accomplish this. We know academics are highly important to an adolescent and their development, and we do not want the fact that they are needing treatment – and thus needing to step away from school for a period of time – be an additional stressor. One way to help instill feelings of competence and achievement is through the integration of five days a week educational instruction in the residential treatment experience. So, our teens work onsite with both subject area teachers as well as an educational liaison who helps coordinate with their home school. This liaison helps them receive and submit manageable assignments on a weekly basis. Achieving small accomplishments each week in their academic work helps them to meet those competence and achievement needs they have during this time of their lives.
In addition to academic assignments, our teens also work on a variety of therapeutic assignments that are designed to help them enhance the work they are doing in their individual and group therapy. Completing and sharing these assignments allows our adolescents to achieve higher levels in our level system and to feel a sense of accomplishment when they do so. It also allows them to dive deeper in their process of self-understanding and to then bring that work into their therapeutic process.
Our unique multidisciplinary Level System promotes competence and achievement. The level system at Clementine was created to demonstrate clear markers of progress along multidimensional domains of treatment. Each level is structured with certain privileges and ways to challenge the eating disorder through activities, assignments and collaboration. It is designed for adolescents to gradually take increased responsibility with food, thoughts and feelings as they progresses in treatment, giving them opportunities to attain achievement and competence. In addition, since the level system is a self-driven process, our clients are able to move their treatment forward at a pace that feels right to them.
The greatest achievement of all is to eventually achieve a full recovery from their eating disorder, coupled with competence in living in their healthy selves. We strive to help all of our teens work toward that achievement.