Guidance from a former parent of Walden Behavioral Care’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program

Perhaps you will recognize this scenario: You go to the dentist and they give you a lecture about the appropriate way to floss. Like clearly you haven’t been doing it right, or you wouldn’t be here. Well, don’t worry; this blog post won’t be anything like a flossing lecture…

But, it will involve some straight talk parent to parent.

When your adolescent enters treatment for their eating disorder you want to make sure the treatment model incorporates the Maudsley Method, a family-based treatment that has been researched and shown to be the most effective treatment for adolescents with eating disorders.  Simply put, family-based treatment views families as an invaluable resource in treatment because they are uniquely positioned to provide the support and supervision necessary to combat this life threatening disease. Parents are temporarily put in charge of all aspects of eating in order to interrupt eating disordered behaviors that are threatening the health and well-being of their child. The treatment seeks to respect the adolescent’s opinions and experience, but refuses to let this devastating illness continue to control their lives.

Being a full participant in your child’s eating disorder treatment means:

      • Setting aside life as you know it, to care for an ill child. Much as you would be called to do if your child had cancer, or another extremely serious illness.
      • Being present. You may be an accomplished professional, with an advanced degree, or your business might be extremely pressured in this economy and while those pressures are real and palpable, if you can’t set aside time to focus on your child, and make arrangements and adjustments, their chances at recovery will significantly decrease.
      • Checking your ego at the door, rolling up your sleeves and getting ready for some work. The work of treatment involves extreme energy and focus. It will be clear to you once you begin, that you probably have never before been called to support, and dig as deep as you will have to during your child’s eating disorder treatment. It is exhausting, but if you choose a reputable eating disorder program, there will be knowledgeable, empathetic and effective clinical support behind you during treatment.
      • Taking an honest look at yourself. Make yourself the proverbial team captain. Go ahead visualize putting that team captain jacket on! And then take a humble deeper look at yourself. If there are any weaknesses in your team captain status, they need to be addressed. Whatever your “IT” is get it under wraps. Maybe your “IT” is anxiety. I understand that one all too well. I remember telling my clinical team the first day “well I had a history of anxiety.” Thereafter they inquired:  “How are your efforts to get your anxiety under control going this week?” At first I felt like waving my hands and saying, “It’s not about me; we’re here to treat my daughter!” Then I realized it was my lack of humility saying that. I wasn’t fully present. I made an appointment with a therapist just for me. Treating my own anxiety ultimately felt empowering.  I got my “IT” out of the way so I could be fully present for my daughter.

If you commit to being a full participant, when you return to life with a healthy child I know you will step back and feel a greater sense of empowerment. You will have a greater sense of clarity and vision. Being a full participant in treatment as a care giver is indeed a hard task, but something tells me you are up to it.