6 Ways to Make the Most Out of Residential Treatment for Eating Disorders
You’re either considering – or just made the decision to enter – residential treatment for your eating disorder. You’re likely feeling a lot of anxiety and perhaps second guessing whether this is the right decision for you.
I’m here to tell you, that if you are ready for recovery, it is the right decision. Try to breathe out the worry and concerns, and focus on where you’re going: a place to find peace of mind, develop a stronger relationship with food, and ultimately, learn what it takes to put ED behind you.
I won’t sugar-coat things; residential treatment can be uncomfortable at times. The change you’ll undergo can be difficult to adapt to at first. Some days you might not want to get out of bed because the thought of repeating what you accomplished the day prior seems impossible.
But I promise you, it’s all worth it. Through that discomfort, true progress happens. Perhaps the only thing more exhausting than working toward change and recovery is being so entrenched in your eating disorder that you can’t see, feel or think about all the hope and optimism in front of you.
Residential treatment offers a level of support you might not find elsewhere. So lean into the discomfort, put one foot in front of the other and get ready to be pleasantly surprised.
How Can Residential Treatment Be Beneficial For Me?
It’s the first day. You just unpacked your belongings in the bedroom’s dresser. Now what? Here are six helpful tips to get the most out of your stay:
1). Be open: Honesty and vulnerability are scary concepts for anyone, and especially for individuals with eating disorders. Eating disorders thrive off of secrecy, shame, and deceit. Your treatment team has your best interests at heart and are experts in their field, so do your best to trust them! It is also important to remain open to treatment recommendations–however uncomfortable these may feel like to you—as they have been individually formulated to help move you forward in your recovery.
2). Dig deep: The words challenging and hard work do no justice to what eating disorder treatment entails. Moving from the black hole of ED thoughts and behaviors, to YOU being in charge, does not happen overnight. In fact, ED thoughts often get LOUDER during the refeeding process. The guilt skyrockets. ED keeps fighting. Those who experience residential treatment often attest that their time in treatment taught them a lot about adversity, but also, how to come out on top.
3). Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re never in this alone. When difficult days consume you, tap into your support system. This can be your treatment team or those outside the residential facility, such as family, friends or community members. This work is too hard to go at it alone.
4). Remember your motivation for getting better. Although it likely doesn’t feel this way, you’ve already come a long way. You’re seeking help, and made the brave decision to hit the “pause” button from work, school and friends. Always keep whatever motivates you – whether it’s certain goals or people in your life – by your side. Remembering why you’re here during the challenging times will help you to persevere.
5). Take it day-by-day: Recovery is rarely linear – it looks and feels different for everyone, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no specific timeline, so do your best not to rush the process. Recovery will be attained at the pace that it needs to, not the pace that you think you should be at or the pace that others are going or have gone. You will eventually get to where you need to go.
6). Apply what you learn to your daily life: Initially, your change occurs within the confines of a contained environment, but for most, real-life likely looks much different. Residential programs consist of educational groups where clinicians and mental health counselors provide you with psychoeducation and the skills to best manage urges, anxiety and other intense emotions. Mindfully participate in these groups. Focus on applying what you learn into your personal experience outside of treatment. How would distress tolerance skills work in your day-to-day life? How would you translate interpersonal effectiveness into changing your relationships with others? This is how you will succeed beyond your stay at the residential level of care.
Okay, so now that you know HOW to make the most out of residential treatment, feel free to take a nice big exhale. Although it may take a while, positive change will happen. If you’re reading this blog, you are likely on your way there, so be proud that you’ve come this far – you’re very courageous and the sky is the limit for what you can achieve.
Taylor Allard is a clinical intern in the adolescent residential program at Walden Behavioral Care, providing individual and group counseling to individuals with eating disorder. Prior to this internship, Taylor has worked as a Mental Health Counselor with Walden for almost two years. She received her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Rivier University and is currently enrolled in William James College for her PsyD in Clinical Psychology. Taylor is particularly interested in working with individuals with eating disorders and trauma, she incorporates aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) into her work with clients.