Utilizing 12-step Principles in the Treatment of Eating Disorders

Contributed Article by Staff at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

At Timberline Knolls, we use an integrated treatment approach to help women and girls with eating disorders. This includes utilizing the set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery found in the 12-step program. Although these steps were originally formulated to help those struggling with alcoholism, we know these principles, in tandem with dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive therapies and family therapy, can make a profound difference in the recovery process. The following is an explanation regarding how the first six steps are used in our residential eating disorder treatment center with female residents.

One: Honesty. This is the core value in step one. This is an admission that she is powerless over her eating disorder, that living alone in her disease isn’t working, and she can’t fix it all on her own. Denial is in the past. By admitting her powerlessness, she and her family can experience a reduction in shame.

Two: Hope. She begins to believe that help is available and recovery is possible. She chooses a higher power and begins to believe in a god that is bigger and stronger than the god of the eating disorder.

Three: Trust and beginning to let go. She experiments with accepting the help that is offered. She demonstrates this by following the prescribed meal plan, attending meetings and therapy sessions, and adhering to the exercise and medication plan. She becomes more and more willing to receive treatment, acceptance, love and healing.  She becomes part of a group, a community of caring individuals.

Four: Reconnecting to self and others. This starts with taking a personal inventory and sharing it with another person as advocated in steps four and five. Then, she sets to cleaning up her past relationships with herself and others by making amends for harms done, giving and receiving forgiveness, and developing healthy and loving relationships with herself and others. These are outlined in steps six, seven, eight and nine.

Five: Staying connected with others. Throughout her treatment, she continues to examine her behaviors and motives in her relationship with herself and others, as delineated in step 10. She continues to grow in areas of weakness and practices gratitude for her strengths and the progress she is making. She works with both her treatment team and her sponsor. She begins extending her experience, strength and hope to others who suffer (step 12) knowing that in giving we receive and in receiving we give.

Six: Staying connected to the true power. As described in step 11, she experienced a power greater than her eating disorder. Using meditation, mindfulness and prayer, she taps into the power source inside and seeks to live to her full potential. She develops a sense of connectedness and belonging.

At Timberline Knolls, our goal is for all of our residents to be set free from their eating disorder. These guiding principles found in 12-step recovery help our women and girls move toward wholeness and health.

Published Date: February 14, 2012
Last reviewed: By Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 4, 2012

Page last updated: June 12, 2012
Article Contributed by our Sponsor ~ Timberline Knolls Treatment Center

Published on EatingDisorderHope.com, Information About Anorexia, Bulimia, Disordered Eating