If you take a moment to think about the variety of people you work with, go to school with, live with, or just interact with on a daily basis, you will probably be able to identify a variety of personalities, likes, dislikes, beliefs, and struggles. These individuals and their differences serve to strengthen and enrich families, teams and communities, but they may also present challenges. The same concept applies to the treatment setting. In the same way you may be influenced by a college roommate, a work colleague, or even a close friend, you will be faced with choices, for better or worse, about whether or not to adopt the behaviors of those around you.

In all levels of care, you are likely to encounter people at various phases of their journeys towards recovery. This may mean individuals are at different levels of readiness for change, and therefore, may be more or less willing to let go of certain behaviors. They also may be struggling with behaviors that are different from yours. Individuals in treatment are often faced with the question “How do I not let others’ behaviors influence my own treatment?”

So how do you focus on your own recovery from an eating disorder like anorexia when you may be surrounded by others’ negative behaviors?

Here are a few helpful strategies to staying focused on yourself:

  1. Make a list of recovery motivators that you can keep near you at meals and throughout your day. Don’t be afraid to reflect on your reasons for recovery to stay focused on the task at hand.
  2. Take a deep breath. Turn your focus back on the here and now. Use your favorite grounding skill to stay in the moment.
  3. Use support! Take a moment to reach out for help, and don’t feel like you have to do it alone.
  4. Reality check. Reach out to a friend or staff person to discuss the challenges you’re facing in treatment.
  5. Employ mindfulness strategies. Let yourself notice others’ behaviors and challenges and then let them go and return your focus to yourself.

On a positive note, there can also be many benefits to having such a wide variety of individuals together in treatment. Often, you can learn from each others’ mistakes and share strategies to overcoming day-to-day challenges. It may feel risky at first, but it is observed that if one person is able to share positive insight, others feel more comfortable doing so as well.

Some of the most thoughtful, recovery-focused inspirations come from other individuals participating in the recovery process. You can probably think of someone in a friend group, a class, a work place, or even in your family whose positive or healthy beliefs or behaviors have “rubbed off” on you. In the same way, stay open-minded to the possibility that part of your recovery journey will include fellow clients helping you to learn new coping skills, become more self-aware, improve communication patterns, and appreciate what you have.

About the author:

Heather Chenette earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and her MSW from Boston College.  Heather was hired at Walden Behavioral Care in August 2011 and has spent most of her time as a clinician in the adolescent and adult residential programs.  She has recently been promoted to Lead Clinician in the adult partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs at Walden’s Waltham location. While Heather enjoys working with clients of all ages and at various levels of care, she has a particular interest in working with male clients and athletes