Finding the Appropriate Therapist and Taking Ownership of Treatment

Contributed by Amy M. Klimek, MA, LCPC, Director of Program Development, Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Amy Klimek photo (1)Eating disorders are in the power business. They slowly and intentionally steal a woman’s power, to the point that she is unable to think or do anything apart from the disorder.

The strength and resilience of a woman or girl to stand against the disorder translates into taking ownership of her own healing and treatment, while decisively taking the power back.

Women with an eating disorder are often very reluctant to start making choices for themselves, perceiving that they have made so many bad choices for so long that they are now literally incapable of recognizing good choices.

However, the simple fact that she elected to pursue treatment indicates that a good decision can be made; now she just needs to build on that first good choice.

Finding A Therapist

Making a good decision regarding a therapist is multi-faceted. Initially, keep in mind that a therapist does not “fix” a person; instead, their purpose is to guide and help an individual along the path of recovery.

You want a therapist that works specifically with eating disorders; this is important because it means they will be familiar with research, advancements in the field, current treatment approaches, etc. Consider this: if a married couple needs help, they go to a marriage counselor. This is no different.

Many excellent websites and resources exist to help people locate a good therapist. Interviewing a therapist is a legitimate and advisable course of action. It is critical to find a good “fit.” You can ask about background, treatment philosophy and approach, what nutritional rehabilitation looks like, etc.

Even though a hard and fast answer is probably not possible, it is okay to ask about duration of therapy.

Sharing Your Story

Nurse Meeting With Teenage Girl In Modern HospitalDuring the interview, it can be beneficial to share a little about your story. This can be an opportunity to notice your own comfort level while sharing thoughts and feelings. Understanding the pace of therapy is different from the length of time in treatment; it can be viewed as the pulse of healing.

The rhythmic movement and steps taken during the healing process can establish intentionality, safety, and confidence. Personal style is key to the “fit.” Is the person’s therapeutic approach more authoritative, meaning direct, rigid and structured, or is the approach softer, meaning warmer, supportive and flexible. You intrinsically know which style will better compliment your needs and personality.

Keep in mind that finding the therapist means finding a team. The most effective treatment approaches include a registered dietitian, medical doctor, and psychiatrist, if prescription medication is involved. This is less difficult than one might think simply because professionals in the field know others in the field.

Taking Ownership

Ownership is the same as personal culpability. It involves many areas such as rejecting the habit of blame. Blaming is an understandable defense mechanism, a means to “protect” one’s self. A person may “blame” many people or life events for the eating disorder such as she was bullied in school or a family member had a severe alcohol problem.

As a means of control, she may use the eating disorder to “protect” the self from the distress. Although such blame may be valid, it is used as a distraction to notice the thoughts and feelings, building tolerance for them and resilience from them.

Fault-Finding Is Counterproductive

DeathtoStock_Wired8Dependence on blame needs to be reduced. If the treatment isn’t progressing exactly as expected, it isn’t the team’s fault; if the food plan is difficult to deal with, it is not the dietitian’s fault. Therapy is often very challenging; that is the nature of the beast. Trying to fault-find is counter-productive and can lead to ongoing struggles, even relapse.

Ownership also means noticing what you are doing well and right. Self-criticism, focusing only on flaws and failures, is a ubiquitous and habitual behavior that requires intentional breaking. If you elect to go to a group that you would prefer to not attend, notice that you did something beneficial to your recovery. This counts as, yet another, good choice.

Rebuilding the Relationship with Yourself

Ownership means that you are committed to rebuilding a relationship with yourself. Essentially, you have experienced a break-up from a toxic relationship; you have “defriended” you’re eating disorder. Now it’s time to get to know yourself again, the real you, the wonderful you that had been eclipsed by a disorder for so long.

Recognizing that an eating disorder exists, finding a therapist and taking ownership of treatment are all positive steps that one day can lead to complete recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What steps have you made to take ownership of your recovery? Have you been able to find a good therapist, what benefits have resulted from your work together?

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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 27th, 2015
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