Considering eating disorder treatment for your child

You may have stumbled across this blog post because it is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, or, you may have come across it whilst undertaking thorough research on behalf of your loved one. Whatever your situation, we’d like to acknowledge the courage and patience it takes to be a parent of someone who is suffering with an eating disorder.

In today’s blog post, we’re sharing some key points of consideration as well as a sort-of “check list” of things to run through when looking into different treatment options.

Your experience – as a parent – is just as valid

Often, people talk of eating disorders as “family illnesses”, meaning that the experience of the eating disorder is not merely isolated to the individual with the diagnosis, but rather, touches all different members of the family.

Feelings which can occur may give rise to thoughts of grief, confusions, or guilt, and can negatively impact parent/carers/marital relationships. There can be a lot of tension as we witness those we love going through hardship and we can often feel powerless in helping them.

As a parent, it’s vital that you recognise your experience and respond to your needs just as quickly as you respond to your loved ones’. Often, our clinicians highlight the necessity of parents and carers being role models for self-care and accepting their own form of “recovery journey” in relation to the eating disorder. Recognise that you too have a real and valid experience of this illness and deserve support, space to recover from specialists who understand.

There will be challenging times and intervals of stepping in and stepping away

Being a caregiver is a nurturing role and, within that, requires a knowledge and acceptance of when to step away and allow our loved ones to take ownership of their journey. This, again, can be difficult when witnessing hardship but can often be a crucial part of someone’s recovery journey – i.e. deciding to recover for themselves.

If your loved one is in treatment, lean on the treatment team for direction on how to best support your loved one.  You may wish to seek your own one-to-one/couple therapy to explore your experience and perhaps discuss utlising Family Therapy if it isn’t already offered as part of your loved ones’ treatment programme.

Recovery is unique to the individual – be mindful of your expectations

Everyone’s recovery journey is different. Depending upon your experience you may have already witnessed different “chapters” to your loved one’s journey. There may have been moments of clarity and illumination that shift things forward, and other moments when things are “too much” and experience small lapses in progress.

In naming this process, you are able to ready yourself for the unpredictable. There’s no set timeframe for treatment and – just how life has ups and downs for all of us (eating disorder or no eating disorder) – there will be ups and downs for your loved one.

“Keeping the communication up” is vital both within the family and in correspondence with your treatment team.

Always hold onto hope

We believe that recovery is possible and holding onto that hope is a huge part of our treatment and approach at Orri. Speaking to our Consultant Family Therapist, Karen Carberry, she said, “We’re in it for the long haul…holding that candle of hope is so important. People come through, people get married and have children, it can be done. People can recover from an eating disorder, and their family members too.”

Helpful questions to ask when doing research:

  • Is the treatment service regulated and are the clinicians accredited?
  • Is there a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) to help treat all aspects of your loved one’s illness?
  • What are the organisation’s values, and do they match yours?
  • What outcomes are being monitored and what is the evaluation and reporting process?
  • How is Dietetics integrated and how do they handle food and mealtimes?
  • Do they provide evidence-based treatments?
  • How is the family supported?
  • How does the treatment facility collaborate with external specialists and physicians?
  • What is the atmosphere of the facility?
  • Do they provide step-down options as your loved one progresses in recovery?

As eating disorder specialists, we understand just how difficult it can be to know what’s right for your family. It’s our aim to empower those who have to make these tricky decisions, whether they come to Orri for treatment or continue their journey elsewhere.

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