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August 5, 2017

How to Use ED Treatment as Launch to a Stronger Family

Family Smiling After Eating Disorder Treatment

Contributor: Michelle Wells, Remuda Ranch Alumna.

When my friend told me that her teenage daughter entered an intensive outpatient program for the treatment of anorexia, I hugged her, and then I congratulated her. “This is great news,” I said.

A surprising response, maybe, but it was heartfelt. I encouraged her and celebrated because I knew that if her family stayed the course, they would emerge on the other side of treatment stronger, healthier, and happier. When utilized to its full benefit, treatment can be a launching pad to a stronger family.

What Matters Most

Though often seen as solely the patient’s issue, an eating disorder is a symptom highlighting the needs of an entire family. A wake-up call of sorts, treatment forces the family unit to examine and realign their priorities.

Suddenly, the grade on the APUSH test or a late night at work pales in comparison to the life and death needs of a mother, daughter, sister, brother, son, or father. Such a crisis forces the family to evaluate what matters most.

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Is it grades? Is it financial success? Is it time spent together? Once values are discussed and clarified, the family can restructure their lives accordingly. The eating disorder acts as a catalyst forcing positive change.

Communicate Better

Living in a time where both parents usually work, homework is vast, and activities can be found for every imagined interest, the American family has become increasingly scattered. The home has become less a place of gathering and more like mission control.

Mother and daughter discussing an anorexia intensive outpatient treatment program.

Faced with the reality of an eating disorder, treatment encourages the family to draw close and unite as a team in order to fight a common foe. These re-established bonds not only encourage recovery, but they also form the foundation for a lifetime of familial closeness. Just as a broken bone is stronger once it heals, so, too, is the family.

Good treatment teaches the family how to communicate more effectively. During treatment family members observe and practice new skills including how to communicate honestly, listen actively, and respond appropriately.

Individuals learn how to share wants and needs, successes and failures, joys and wounds. Family members are given the opportunity to support and be supported. Over time and with practice, the family becomes more authentic and responsive.

When individuals feel heard and valued they gain the confidence and self-esteem needed to succeed apart from the family. Treatment encourages individuals to communicate well and pursue healthy relationships inside and outside of the family.

Re-build a Stronger Family

By addressing the critical needs, professional treatment helps stabilize the patient and their family. As the family begins to trust the process and heal, they can focus some of their energy on enjoying each other.

Michelle Wells

By participating in family outings and recreational activities, family members create new memories, forge stronger bonds, and acquire healthy habits. Creative pursuits help relieve stress and unearth new talents.

Positive, low-stress interaction allows the family to experience happiness and anticipate the future. Life together becomes fun again.

When dealing with the life and death reality of an eating disorder, professional treatment offers the hurting family hope and healing. New skills are learned, hurts are forgiven, and hope is restored. Eating disorder treatment strengthens the family and allows them to look forward to a brighter tomorrow.


Remuda Ranch at The Meadows, located in Wickenburg, Arizona, provides individualized treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring conditions affecting adolescent girls and women. We offer an acute level of care, inpatient treatment, and residential programming in a safe, nurturing, non-institutional environment. Our clients develop the tools develop the tools they need to sustain recovery by focusing on education, resiliency, and self-regulation. For more information call 866-390-5100 or visit www.remudaranch.com.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 4, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 4, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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