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Teenage girls and young women who have eating disorders often need professional treatment to achieve full recovery. Although a variety of different program structures exist, many parents of teenagers with eating disorders opt for residential treatment. Programs at residential treatment centers allow clients to immerse themselves in the treatment experience and focus all of of their attention on recovering from the disorder.

If you are enrolling your daughter in a residential treatment program, you may feel nervous or overwhelmed about the enrollment process as well as the treatment itself. Learning what you and your child should expect during residential treatment and how you can best prepare for your child’s experience at a residential treatment facility can help make the process easier.

What Is Residential Treatment?

Residential treatment centers are facilities that treat individuals with eating disorders in a home-like environment. During treatment, clients live at the facility. These programs can vary in length according to the client’s needs. While in treatment, clients will follow a daily schedule established by the residential treatment facility. This highly-structured environment improves compliance rates and increases the likelihood clients will achieve true recovery. Clients who complete residential treatment and recommended step-down programs will receive consistent support on the path to recovery.

Choosing a Residential Treatment Facility

The first step in preparing your child for residential treatment for an eating disorder involves choosing the right residential treatment program. The best way to choose an appropriate program is to compare all of your options while keeping your treatment priorities in mind. Some of the issues to consider as you select a residential treatment program include:

  • Location

    In some cases, parents may need to travel in order to enroll their child in a well established residential treatment program. In many cases, residential treatment centers will encourage parents and other family members to participate in the treatment process, which will require trips to and from the facility or at the very least, conference or video calls. Although the health of the client is of the most importance, it is important to consider the facility’s location before enrolling.

  • Treatment approach

    Different approaches to the treatment of eating disorders exist, and not all of these approaches are equally effective. When choosing a treatment facility, parents should research the treatment approach used and speak with a clinician at the location to better understand if this approach will be appropriate for their child’s needs. Additionally, parents should inquire about the program’s success rates. In general, it is best to choose a program that offers customized, evidence-based treatment with a solid record of success.

Preparing Your Child for Adolescent Residential Treatment

Teenagers often feel nervous before entering eating disorder treatment. Parents planning to enroll a child in residential treatment for teens should maintain open communication with their child and work with the treatment team to provide reassurance during the process. To prepare for admittance to a women’s residential treatment or adolescent residential treatment program, the following tips may be helpful:

1. Explain the purpose of the program

A teenager who needs treatment for an eating disorder is more likely to comply with the program if she understands the program’s purpose. Parents should take the time to discuss the benefits of eating disorder treatment with the teenager before enrolling her in the program, so she will be aware of the program’s value and be more likely to fully participate.

2. Consider allowing the teenager to help choose the facility

Although parents may want to make the final decision when it comes to their child’s eating disorder treatment, it is often beneficial to include the teenager in the decision making process. Participating in this process encourages the teenager to take more responsibility for her own recovery, which may increase her commitment to and success in the program.

3. Talk to the teenager about how the program will work

Many teenagers preparing to enter eating disorder treatment will be nervous because they are not sure what to expect. Parents should, with the support of the treatment team, discuss the program with their teenager in detail, so she can feel more prepared and less anxious. Aspects of the program that should be discussed in advance include:

  • How long the program will last
  • Where the teenager will live during the program
  • How often the teenager will be able to visit with friends and family
  • What kinds of therapy will be used during the program
  • What a typical day in the program will look like
  • What the teenager will be able to bring with her to the facility
  • How progress in the program will be measured

4. Give the teenager a chance to ask questions

Teenage girls who are preparing to admit to eating disorder treatment will often have questions about the treatment process or other issues related to the program. Teenagers should have a chance to ask any questions they have about treatment before they are admitted. If a parent does not know the answer a question, the parent may contact the facility to obtain the necessary information.

5. Take the teenager on a tour of the facility

If available, parents should schedule a tour of the facility for their child and themselves prior to enrollment. The teen and family may have the opportunity to see a typical bedroom, as well as the recreational spaces and dining areas.

6. Provide reassurance

Even after a teenager has learned about an eating disorder program and had an opportunity to ask questions, she may still feel anxious about leaving home for an extended period of time or participating in therapy at the eating disorder treatment facility. Parents should be sensitive to these issues and allow the teenager to express her concerns and fears openly. Parents should speak reassuringly, reminding the teenager of the program’s purpose and encouraging her to see treatment as an opportunity for growth and positive change.

Preparation Tips for Parents

Parents of teenage girls who need eating disorder treatment are often nervous about the treatment process as well. These tips will help relieve stress and prepare you and your loved one for the process:

1. Learn as much about the program as possible

Understanding how the program will work and what the teenager will be doing while she is in treatment will help alleviate anxiety. Spend time learning about the program by reading brochures, reading content on the program’s website and requesting any additional information that cannot be found online or in literature. Learning the details of the program will also be helpful to parents as they support their child in preparation for admittance.

2. Understand parent responsibilities

Many residential eating disorder treatment programs will ask parents to participate in the treatment process to support their daughter’s recovery. Parents should ask about the responsibilities they will have during treatment, which may include attending family therapy sessions, participating in educational activities, discussing aftercare arrangements and/or visiting their daughter during treatment. Parents should make arrangements to meet all of these requirements.

3. Have the right attitude

Successful eating disorder treatment for teenagers is much easier when parents are active participants with a positive and hopeful attitude. Not only should parents plan to participate in the treatment process, but as difficult as it may be at times, be ready to do so with a sense of positivity.

4. Be prepared for challenges

Eating disorder treatment is not always easy and parents may experience their fair share of challenges during the treatment process. For example, the teenager may wish to leave the program and/or she may be resistant to participating in treatment. In other cases, teenagers may bring up issues during therapy that directly relate to parents, such as a feeling of inadequacy or a perception of too much pressure. Parents may instinctively want to argue or deny the teenager’s feelings; however, successful treatment requires the teenager be able to feel safe expressing herself. Parents should prepare themselves for the possibility of these or other challenges. When facing any challenge during the treatment process, parents should try to support their child’s struggles with empathy and support.

5. Be patient

As a parent, it is only natural to want to see a child recover from any kind of difficulty as quickly as possible. However, eating disorder treatment takes time and consistent effort and some teenagers may need additional support in order to achieve full recovery. Even after the treatment process is complete, teenagers may need ongoing care in the form of day treatment or other outpatient services. Parents should be aware of this possibility and should do their best to be patient and understanding throughout the process.

Residential Treatment at Clementine

Clementine is a residential eating disorder treatment facility that treats adolescent females with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. We understand how overwhelming the idea of residential treatment can be for teenagers and their parents alike, and do our very best to provide the support and care needed throughout the process. Our facility is designed to look and feel as much like home as possible, providing our clients with comfortable sleeping quarters and common areas. We want every client and her family to enter our facility feeling as confident and safe as possible, and are happy to provide tours or answer any questions you may have.

At Clementine, we know strong, supportive relationships with friends and family are essential to successful treatment and encourage parents and loved ones to be active participants in the treatment process. We encourage visits from friends and family to help our clients feel more at ease throughout treatment. If you are interested in learning more about admitting a teenager to residential treatment at Clementine, please contact our facility today.