What to Look for in an Eating Disorder Treatment Center

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A few months ago, I read an article in the New York Times about the recent proliferation of eating disorder treatment centers across the country. People are usually stunned when I tell them that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. There are many reasons for this, one of which is the complexity and difficulty in treating eating disorders. Because of the potentially fatal nature of this disease, it is a good thing that there are more treatment centers than there were in years past. Upon reading this article, though, I felt compelled to bring attention to the important aspects to consider when choosing a place for yourself or your loved one.

I remember years ago, when I attended my first conference dedicated to the topic of eating disorders, I was blown away by the brochures of treatment facilities depicting beautifully decorated rooms situated in a picturesque setting. Exploring the websites of these facilities is often the first step of a concerned family member or individual in their treatment seeking process.┬áIt’s important to remember that the aesthetic beauty of a treatment center or hospital does not necessarily equate to the quality of care delivered. It’s even been argued by some that a spa-ish or vacation type of location provides an unrealistic setting in which an individual recovers and can exacerbate re-entry struggles. Once discharged from the luxurious treatment center, they return to their drastically different environment which can be especially difficult.

Paramount in recovery from an eating disorder is a treatment program that assists the person in changing their problematic behaviors. Look for an interdisciplinary team that combines mental health professionals, psychiatrists, physicians, and dietitians who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. Also make sure that the facility is accredited by The Joint Commission.

It’s a difficult decision to make, and, you hope you only make it one time. Unfortunately, relapse is a significant part of the disease and many will be hospitalized for treatment more than once. Recovery is a lifelong process which is why looking for professionals who will identify supports and outline a clearly defined discharge plan with ongoing outpatient care is also recommended.

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