A mother struggling to save her daughter’s life becomes a powerful advocate for the Anna Westin Act
Linda Downey (fourth from left) and members of the Eating Disorders Coalition outside Congressman Joseph Kennedy’s office in Washington D.C.
We are so proud of Emaleigh and her family! After years of struggling in silence, Emaleigh’s mother, Linda Downey, decided go public when her insurance company refused to cover the cost of Ema’s continued treatment at Mirasol. She traveled to Washington D.C., last month to advocate for the Anna Westin Act, which would mandate better insurance coverage for eating disorders, and took part in the MOM March Against Eating Disorders on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Seth Moulton, her local Congressman, said he has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Westin Act “due to the advocacy of Linda Downey.”
Here’s the full story from a November 19, 2015, article by Paul Leighton in the Salem News:
BEVERLY — For years, the Downey family was not allowed to even mention the word “anorexia.”
Emaleigh Downey was diagnosed with the eating disorder when she was 12 years old. She lost weight, missed school, suffered anxiety and depression, and became increasingly isolated.
“People don’t understand eating disorders so I tried to pretend like I was normal,” she said. “But having to keep everything in check and trying to participate in normal life activities was pretty much impossible. It took away any chance of me having a normal, functional life.”
After eight years, the self-imposed silence is ending. The family is now speaking out on behalf of proposed federal legislation that would improve training and awareness of eating disorders and provide the same insurance coverage that other illnesses receive.
Linda Downey, Emaleigh’s mother, traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to join advocates for the bill, called the Anna Westin Act. She took part in the MOM March Against Eating Disorders on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and joined advocates to lobby members of Congress.
Linda Downey called her new-found advocacy “very empowering.” “After eight years of feeling alone, I feel like I’ve kind of stepped out of myself for the first time,” she said.
She was motivated to go public when her insurance company refused to cover the cost of Emaleigh’s continued treatment at a residential program in Arizona.
Emaleigh, now 20, was attending Keene State College when her health began to decline significantly. She had attended six previous treatment programs in the Boston area with little success, so the family found a longer-term option, the Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Center in Arizona.
Sleepless in their hotel room in Tucson on the night before Emaleigh checked into the center, Linda Downey feared her daughter would not survive. She was so underweight that bones were protruding under her skin and her heart rate was in the 30s.
“I was terrified she wouldn’t make it through the night,” Linda Downey said. “I couldn’t wait for daylight to get her to a safe place.”
At Mirasol, Emaleigh said she developed a healthy relationship with her body through a form of therapy called trauma-releasing exercises. “I think what I found most helpful was that I was actually treated like a human,” she said.
After five months at Mirasol, Emaleigh’s treatment was interrupted by a letter from her insurance company announcing it would no longer pay for her stay there. The letter said that because Emaleigh had gained weight, her eating disorder was no longer “immediately life-threatening.”
The Downeys say that interpretation epitomizes the misunderstanding that surrounds anorexia and other eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, an eating disorder is a “bio-psychosocial” condition that must be treated as both a medical and mental health illness.
Linda Downey said the insurance company assumed Emaleigh was healthy based on the fact she had gained weight, without considering a variety of other factors.
“Just when the person is getting their footing, they’re done,” she said. “Weight restoration is only part of it. It’s a much, much bigger, more complicated illness.”
The Downeys filed multiple appeals with the insurance company, including a letter from Emaleigh’s therapist saying if she were sent home too soon, it “could mean death for her.” The insurance company still refused to pay for her continued stay.
The family took out a home equity line and paid for the final month of Emaleigh’s treatment in Arizona themselves. They are also using her college money to help pay for her outpatient care now that she’s home.
Advocates of the Anna Westin Act — named in honor of a young woman with anorexia who committed suicide in 2000 — say the legislation would mandate better insurance coverage for eating disorders. It would also provide training for health professionals, school personnel and the public to identify eating disorders and intervene early, and require the federal government to study the harmful effects of altered body images in advertising.
Congressman Seth Moulton of Salem said he has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Westin Act “due to the advocacy of Linda Downey.”
On Downey’s visit to Washington, Moulton’s office had canceled an appointment with the Eating Disorder Coalition due to a scheduling conflict. But Downey decided to stop by his office on her own to drop off a packet and ended up meeting with one of Moulton’s assistants.
“This is how democracy should work,” Moulton said. “No big-money lobbyists, just a concerned mother who wants to make life better for those suffering with an eating disorder. I hope my support for the bill can make a difference.”
Emaleigh Downey said she is “in recovery,” but her battle with anorexia will be a long struggle. Whatever happens, she is tired of keeping her secret. Like her mother, she said she plans to become more involved in speaking out and advocating for people with eating disorders.
“I’m sick of lying to people and holding back,” she said. “Secrets keep you sick.”
Panel Discussion with Clinicians from Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers
There is a very high correlation between eating disorders and addiction. According to NEDA, nearly half of individuals with an eating disorder also abuse drugs and/or alcohol. Is an eating disorder a form of addiction? If not, what are the differences? And more importantly, how can we effectively treat co-occurring eating disorders and substance abuse?
Clinical Director, Adult Program
Ann Twilley, MA,
Download Audio: M4A
Diane R: “Certainly, it’s been highly researched that substance abuse and eating disorders co-occur frequently. Substance abuse is a risk factor for eating disorders and eating disorders are a risk factor for substance abuse. As a consequence we have had many clients over the years who have had both conditions. In my opinion, a really good way to treat substance abuse and eating disorders that co-occur is to get an initial handle on the substance abuse, go through whatever withdrawal there is from that and then really start to do the deep work that we do here.”
In the early years at Mirasol, we weren’t doing the depth work that we’re doing now, so we’d have a client who would leave, and all of a sudden, their alcohol addiction would go through the roof, or their sexual addiction or relationship addiction would come up … That was really helpful for us as a treatment center to really start looking at how we needed to get to those deeper issues, because otherwise, it’s like “Whack a Mole”, where you do the eating disorder piece and then something else pops up.”
Ann T: “Especially in the early years at Mirasol, we weren’t doing the depth work that we’re doing now, so we’d have a client who would leave, and all of a sudden, their alcohol addiction would go through the roof, or their sexual addiction or relationship addiction would come up, and was often a product of not getting to those core issues. That was really helpful for us as a treatment center to really start looking at how we needed to get to those deeper issues, because otherwise, it’s like “Whack a Mole”, where you do the eating disorder piece and then something else pops up, and that’s what we were seeing in the field.”
Anne G: “Eating disorders themselves are not seen as addictions, but they really are.”
Katie K: “The American Society of Addiction Medicine lists common characteristics of obsession – a person being obsessed with the behavior or the substance who will engage in the behavior despite the consequences. There’s the compulsiveness of the behavior, which we see all the time with our eating disorder clients. There’s the loss of control that comes with addiction, and we see that with our clients. There’s the denial – huge piece of addiction which we see with our clients all the time. And there’s the hiding the behavior.”
Moderator: “When someone comes in and they have a dual diagnosis, how do we treat them differently? What do we do to take care of that?”
Anne G: “I think one of the most important things is removing the substances they have access to, so those emotions can be brought to the surface. A beautiful thing about residential treatment is stripping away access to all possible addictions to latch onto so the client is in this raw place where they really do need to face those things that come up.”
Moderator: “You can remove all these other external medicators, like alcohol and drugs, but an eating disorder is one thing you can remove access to!”
Diane R: “Well, it’s almost like having an alcohol substance abuse program where you force people to have half a beer a day. How well would that work? So that’s just another indication of the complexity and the difficulty of working with eating disorders in general, and why we have to do so many integrative therapies in order to address those issues. Between the experiential model that we engage in, including the wilderness piece, and the body-centered therapies we do, we really are able to engage the whole person in the recovery process.”
With substance abuse or an eating disorder … when they come into treatment, and we take those medicators away, people are uncomfortable. So another part of how we treat is to allow them to be in that discomfort and expand their tolerance, and to know that it’s okay and they will get through that piece, and they don’t need to immediately jump to something that will medicate or numb.”
Rachel N: “Addiction is a chronic disconnect to self or spirit. I think how art therapy plays into this is connecting to your emotions, expressing that, and being fluent within that, and not holding the emotions in. So, – at least with art therapy – treating an eating disorder or any other addiction, I approach it in the same way.”
Maeve S?: “With substance abuse or an eating disorder, whatever that medicator is, it’s medicating being uncomfortable. So when they come into treatment, and we take those medicators away, people are uncomfortable here. There’s a lot of emotion coming up, a lot of feeling coming, past trauma coming up. And so another part of how we treat is to really allow them to be in that discomfort and expand their tolerance, and to know that it’s okay and they will get through that piece, and they don’t need to immediately jump to something that will medicate or numb.”
Jamelynn E: “A lot of the work we do here is to help people be uncomfortable, be okay with being uncomfortable. I think one of the really big components of why recovery is so challenging, and why so many people don’t move forward in recovery and keep getting stuck, is because as soon as we get uncomfortable we want those medicators back. But we are here to support you. We’re here to give you tools, and encourage you to use those tools to learn how to be more tolerant of being uncomfortable.”
Ann T: “So it’s no surprise I’m bringing this part up, but ‘tools, tools, tools’ [laughter]. I tell clients this all the time, I work with them for a full year after they go home, and those people who use the tools are the ones who fare much better in recovery. They have new ways of handling the stressors that don’t go away just because they come to treatment. I think sometimes people come to treatment thinking ‘everything’s going to be different when I leave here’, but unfortunately the people at home aren’t going to be very different at all. In fact, it’s going to be harder because you’re rocking the boat. You’re destabilizing the whole family system or the friendships back home because you’re really different. And that’s going to rock people. That’s going to make them feel unstable in that relationship.”
I think sometimes people come to treatment thinking ‘everything’s going to be different when I leave here’, but unfortunately the people at home aren’t going to be very different at all. In fact, it’s going to be harder because you’re rocking the boat. You’re destabilizing the whole family system or the friendships back home because you’re really different.
Moderator: “Do you want to talk about some of the tools that you recommend people use when they go home after treatment?”
Ann T: “There are hundreds, it just depends on the person. For example, tapping. We teach them emotional freedom techniques, and we also have an alumni group that they can come to, no matter how long they’ve been gone, to continue that work. And mindfulness is hugely important.”
Audrey B: “Breathing. It’s something so basic and so simple. Women, before they come to Mirasol, often take all their breaths from the upper chest, so just talking about something simple, like taking a deep breath, and seeing how that switches things up for you.”
Ann T: “Being aware of your emotions – that’s a tool! Just by saying to themselves, ‘I’m sad’ or “I feel this in my chest’, the amygdala down-regulates, it calms down. We can literally change what’s happening in our brains by acknowledging what we’re experiencing.”
Maeve S: “And also reaching out for support, and saying ‘this is what I need right now’ is a huge tool to be able to use.”
Katie K: “And of course we can’t forget the meal plan. What I’ve found with clients is that when they stick to their meal plans, they are much less likely to experience thoughts of wanting to use or drink or resort to other compulsive behaviors.”
Ann T: “[A client] was telling me, ‘I want to not be working so doggone hard at this. There’s so much I have to think about to do.’ But you look at what we consider ‘normal’ functioning people who don’t have an addiction, how do they function? How do they cope with the things that come up in their lives? And they do things like this all the time, but they don’t look at them as tools. They have normalized and they have incorporated it into their lives. And so when I have clients who have been gone for a while, and they’ve figured that out, they don’t say ‘I had to use these tools’, they just say, ‘this is how I took care of myself.’ It’s no longer a big task, it just becomes a part of what they do every single day.”
Anne G: “I recently met someone who had been in recovery from an eating disorder for about 20 years and she said something really powerful, which was that the amount of time it took for that self-care, and using the tools and following the meal plan pales in comparison to the amount of energy and time she spent in her eating disorder.”
Diane R: “Things like the adventure therapy component of our program encourages people to stretch themselves and see what’s possible. When someone suffers from an eating disorder or addiction, their lives get very very small, and there’s despair, and depression, and they’re not having any fun. So once they come to Mirasol, one of the things we offer that I think is really important is the possibility of a world outside, and all kinds of things that they may not have ever considered or encountered before, but ways that they can look at themselves differently in terms of how they fit with themselves and with other people and with the greater world out there. And they can connect to nature, which can be an entry point for spirituality and a lot of other ways of being in the world that creates the motivation to do this very difficult, uncomfortable work.”
Panel Discussion with Clinicians from Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers
Vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, raw, paleo — all claim to be the “ideal” diet, and adherents preach the benefits with the conviction of religious converts. But the current obsession with “clean” or “healthy” eating can have very unhealthy consequences. Mirasol clinicians gathered to talk about the roots of orthorexia, how it differs from anorexia, and the red flags that help health professionals and family members distinguish between selective or “picky eating” and an eating disorder.
Clinical Director, Adult Program
Ann Twilley, MA,
Massage and Exercise Therapist
Download Audio: M4A
Diane Ryan: “Orthorexia is not exactly the same as anorexia. The strict translation is ‘righteous eating’. So it has a few different components than anorexia although some of the components are the same. The thing that characterizes orthorexia, in addition to the restrictiveness that’s created by the narrowing down of food choices, is the fact that there’s this ‘virtuous’ component to it. It often comes from peoples’ desires to eat healthy, and it just gets out of hand and becomes extreme. And I think the general consensus is that ‘it becomes a problem when it becomes a problem,’ when your decision to eat healthy prevents you from interacting socially, when it prevents you from normal relationships or normal ways of eating or normal places to go and ways of participating. And it also seems to impact the person’s self-perception, so you can’t feel really good about yourself unless you eat in a certain way that’s very very clean and pure, and foods have to come from certain sources. There’s always a component of, ‘my self-esteem comes from the fact that I eat a certain way, and therefore if I don’t, I have a lot of harsh self-judgment.'”
Anne Ganje: “Orthorexics won’t often say ‘I want to lose weight.’ It can start with these diets that become very popular, and all of these books that promote health and cleansing and purity are very attractive, but once orthorexics or anorexics start diving into this, they realize that the consequences are weight loss. Then they get affirmed by their peers and culture, and that can be very addicting. There’s also a high from fasting in and of itself. So the desire to cleanse or to be pure will promote a physiological response of feeling high, and then the culture and peers really promote that. It’s often correlated with trauma, so that cleansing is a symbol of ‘I’m cleansing my body from what I feel shame about.'”
Moderator: “When somebody comes into treatment with a long list of food preferences or food allergies, how can you identify which ones are legitimate?”
I think the general consensus is that ‘it becomes a problem when it becomes a problem,’ when your decision to eat healthy prevents you from interacting socially, when it prevents you from normal relationships or normal ways of eating or normal places to go and ways of participating.
Anne Ganje: “It’s something that we have to deal with every day, and I think the level of attachment and what it brings up for the client when they’re given guidelines, and told what we do and don’t allow. We do allow three dislikes and we certainly honor legitimate allergies and intolerances. But when there’s a lot of fear and anxiety, and behaviors escalate, that’s always a sign for me as a dietitian that’s there something much more than nutrition going on, that there are layers of trauma and anxiety that they’re trying to cover up through the use of food. An orthorexic might start by becoming a vegan or a raw foodist, but it becomes more rigid and stricter, and then malnutrition starts to set in.”
Diane Ryan: “And when you have malnutrition, you’re going to have fairly quickly symptoms of cognitive failure of one sort or another, so the person’s ability to make good choices is decreased.”
Moderator: “It must be very difficult to persuade them that something they have been conditioned to believe is healthy eating is now a health problem for them. How do you go about disabusing them of that notion that what they’re doing is healthy and ‘cool’?”
Anne Ganje: “I think it’s spending part of my time as a dietitian engaging in conversation with the clients about faulty belief systems around healthy eating and what it means to be a healthy individual, and then also working with the shame and the fear that come up around food.”
Maeve Shaughnessy: “When somebody goes to their doctor and says, ‘This is what I’m eating and I seem to be underweight,’ if they’re working with a doctor who doesn’t have any sort of eating disorder specialty, it’s going to be … applauded!”
Moderator: “Are there things that you would want school counselors, and doctors to know to look for to help them identify when picky eating is actually becoming problematic?”
Kira Vredenburg: “I would look at the importance of balance, keeping an eye on whether that person is cutting out whole food groups, and then seeing if that’s affecting the individual’s life. Is making those food choices taking away from their lives? Is it making it hard for them to go out with friends? Is it making it hard for them to do well in school?”
Anne Ganje: “I think there’s a real difference between picky eating and orthorexia. Children, in the absence of any kind of trauma or serious dysfunction, typically would not have the ability to understand or indulge in orthorexic behaviors. But when it becomes something that is cutting you out of life and social activities and connection with others — when it becomes a way to spirituality and peace and decreased anxiety — that addictive use is when it becomes a problem.”
Maeve Shaughnessy: “One other component of orthorexia that I don’t think we’ve highlighted quite enough is the exercise component. That’s another red flag to look for, that quest to optimize a healthy lifestyle, when an individual focuses in on exercise, and ‘How do I perform the best, and feed my body the best so that I can perform the best?’ I think that’s really common in athletes, and we have quite a few athletes that come [to Mirasol]. You asked the question earlier, ‘How do we tease apart this healthy mindset versus an eating disorder when it’s so ingrained into their identities,’ and that can be a really challenging thing to pick apart.”
It’s very similar to PTSD or trauma, where we talk about their lives slowly becoming more narrowly focused. It’s very gradual, so by the time they get there they don’t realize how much they’ve given up and how much they’ve changed.
Katie Klein: “I was doing a little googling prior to the discussion, and the word that kept coming up was ‘obsession’: an obsession with eating healthy, an obsession with purity.”
Ann Twilley: “When it interferes with peoples’ lives, and they can’t do the things they want to do, that’s how I approach it. ‘Okay, you say you want this lifestyle, you say this is really important to you, and yet it has limited what you can do in your life. It’s limiting you from engaging socially or with family members.’ And that’s the biggest thing I see. We had a client who ate only raw food, and she couldn’t go to any family functions, she bowed out of pretty much anything involving food, and that’s just about everything socially. So I think that’s a huge piece of it, the obsession piece for sure, and also how it limits their lives.”
Jamelynn Evans: “It’s not only the limitations on freedom, but also the limitations on how much of their day — and their life — becomes about buying the food, planning the food, going to the farmers’ market, making the food …. So, not only they are missing out engagements with people who are eating other things, but also how free are they to live a life that revolves around anything but food?”
Ann Twilley: “It’s very similar to PTSD or trauma, where we talk about their lives slowly becoming more narrowly focused. It’s very gradual, so by the time they get there they don’t realize how much they’ve given up and how much they’ve changed.”
The annual Wilderness Therapy Symposium is a great opportunity to meet and share best practices with clinicians, instructors, researchers and guides from wilderness programs all over the world. For me, one of the highlights of this year’s symposium was a pre-conference workshop on current research on outdoor behavioral healthcare. Findings related to the impact of treatment interventions underscored the significance of non-structured time spent with clients. This was followed by a workshop addressing the latest findings in the field of neuroplasticity and the implications for behavioral health.
Until recently, it was thought that the brain stopped developing after the first few years of life, and that if part of the adult brain was damaged, the nerve cells could not regenerate or form new connections. However, ongoing studies are demonstrating that the brain continues to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life in response to changes in our feelings, thoughts, experiences and the way we use our bodies. As we engage in habitual behaviors, such as eating disorders or substance abuse, neural pathways become entrenched, increasing the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. But the plasticity of the brain means we can retrain the brain to develop new neural pathways that support recovery.
Research on the mechanism of neurological change indicates that several driving forces need to be present for neurogenesis to occur:
- Exercise – One of the key locations in the brain for the production of new neurons is the hippocampus. Studies show that this area of the brain contributes to memory formation and organization. Exercise can increase blood flow to the hippocampus and improve the acquisition of new learning as well as memory. A study by Henriette van Pragg installed running wheels in rat cages. She found that wheel running produced both increases in hippocampal volume and improvements in memory and maze running. Interestingly, forcing the rats to exercise, rather than allowing them to exercise, negated the neurogenic effects, as did stress. Running appears to create optimal conditions for new neuronal development, however as little as three hours a week of brisk walking has been shown to halt or even reverse the brain atrophy that begins in middle age. Through increased blood flow to the brain, exercise triggers biochemical changes that help generate new neurons and new inter-synaptic connections.
- Mindfulness – Meditation in various forms and other mindfulness practices, including mindful eating, provides a context for change to occur. Awareness of the workings of the nervous system and how it impacts behavior is the first step toward choosing to change, letting go of limiting beliefs and creating a recovery mindset.
- Novelty – Our brains are hard-wired to appreciate and seek out novelty. Animal studies have shown that exposure to a novel environment or stimuli increases the brain’s ability to create new connections between neurons by activating the midbrain area, increasing dopamine levels, and motivating us to explore our environment in search of potential rewards.
Neuroplasticity is revolutionizing the field of behavioral health and underscoring the critical role of experiential therapies. Mirasol is proud to offer eating disorder treatment programs that maximize the conditions for new neural patterning, including EMDR, yoga, TRE, art therapy, polarity therapy, somatic therapy and dance-movement therapy. Our adventure therapy and wilderness programming add an element of novelty, encouraging clients to expand and discover innovative solutions to challenges and uncover hidden strengths. As clients participate in service projects that expose them to new groups of people and circumstances, they become more skillful at reframing their perceptions of themselves, creating their own pathways to lasting recovery.
If you’ve ever considered residential eating disorder treatment, your dietitian or therapist may have recommended something called “PHP” or “partial hospitalization”.
Mirasol, like many other treatment centers, offers a “partial hospitalization” program, but the name is misleading, and there are a lot of misconceptions about the nature and purpose of the program.
For starters, “partial hospitalization” doesn’t mean you’ll spend part of the time in a hospital. On the contrary, you’ll be living at home or in a comfortable residence with other Mirasol clients!
A few photos of Mirasol’s new PHP residence
PHP is often described as a “day” program, but most PHPs actually offer both day and evening programming. It’s just that there are fewer hours of individual and group therapy, and more free time to study, work, volunteer in the community, or attend off-site meetings.
In PHP, the focus of therapy shifts from analysis and discovery to development of practical skills that will help you live in the world after treatment without an eating disorder. PHP is often recommended for clients as a step-down from full-time residential treatment, or to provide additional support for clients already in recovery.
“It’s the bridge between living in a safe environment and doing the deep core work required at the residential level, and then being able to step aside and apply what you’ve learned so that you can live your life in recovery,” says Mirasol Primary Therapist Katie Klein.
Small is Beautiful (and Baffling)
Mirasol’s PHP is very small — never more than six clients in any residence — so treatment plans are highly individualized and adjusted on an almost daily basis to balance the need for support and independence.
“No one’s program here looks the same,” says Klein. “Some clients need more individual sessions with their primary therapist, while for others we may supplement those sessions with Reiki, polarity therapy, neurofeedback, EMDR or TRE.”
There’s an average of two process groups a day, with a strong focus on tool and skill development and coping skills through cognitive behavioral therapy, belief work, mindfulness and meditation as well as dialectical behavior therapy, supported by weekly psychodrama, art therapy, poetry and spirituality groups.
Compulsive Exercise: Eating Disorder’s Evil Twin
Many clients have an unhealthy relationship with exercise as well as an unhealthy relationship with food. For example, 90% of bulimics exercise to compensate for episodes of binge eating.
“Developing a healthy relationship with exercise is a very important part of the PHP program,” says Program Director Nikole Corcoran. “With staff support, clients learn to exercise appropriately, to cope with the feelings that come up when they can’t exercise, and to make sure that they’re exercising for the right reasons.”
Tara Shultis, Massage and Movement Therapist, develops individualized exercise plans for each client, and that means working very closely with our naturopathic physician and dietitians.
“Most clients will attend two yoga classes per week, along with rocks and ropes sessions, trips to the gym and low-flying single-point trapeze. We also offer — weather permitting — bimonthly hiking, caving or backpacking trips.”
Keeping It Real in the Kitchen
Of course one of the biggest challenges of transitioning to life after residential treatment is making sure each client has the tools she needs to plan and prepare healthy meals. Corcoran was surprised to discover that some PHP programs don’t focus on teaching clients how to properly feed themselves.
“All the food is prepared for them, and sometimes they don’t even serve themselves, so they leave treatment knowing what their meal plan is, but with no idea how to implement it. So we put a lot of emphasis not only on food preparation and cooking, but also on breaking down labels and really understanding what those labels mean.”
Dietitian Anthony Hackworth meets with clients every Monday to work out a menu plan for the week. He also accompanies the clients on weekly grocery shopping outings to reinforce their healthy food choices and provide assistance with label-reading.
At weekly cooking classes, Mirasol chef Deirdre O’Leary teaches basic cooking skills, including tips on prep work, knife skills, and healthy fats. Deirdre is not only a fantastic chef, but a wonderful entertainer, seasoning her sound advice with entertaining tips for “getting down with your food”, letting vegetables “party in the pan” and judicious use of “aerial assault”. There’s a video of Chef Dee in action on our web site.
“Opportunities to Be Uncomfortable”
The individualization and fluidity of the program are its greatest strengths, but may also be a source of frustration for some clients.
“One of the things PHP can and must provide is the opportunity to be uncomfortable”, quips Mirasol’s Executive Director Diane Ryan. “That period of transition from the protective cocoon-like environment of residential treatment to life on the outside is the messiest, scariest phase in the recovery process.”
In residential treatment, the daily schedule is filled with individual and group therapy sessions, scheduled meals and snacks and recreational activities. Clients are supervised 24/7 to reduce eating disorder cues and triggers, and access to other medicators is severely restricted. In PHP, on the other hand, the daily schedule is deliberately salted with unstructured time and opportunities for clients to make their own choices, including how they’ll cope effectively with periods of boredom, indecision, frustration and anxiety.
The ultimate goal is to provide you with opportunities to practice the skills and tools you learned in treatment, with the support of clinical staff and your peers, in an environment as close to real life as possible. There’s a sample program schedule on Mirasol’s web site at PHP Day Program Schedule.
If you’d like to learn more about Mirasol’s PHP program, speak with one of our counselors by calling 888-520-1700 or visit mirasol.net.
Top 10 Eating Disorder Blogs of 2015
Eating Disorder Hope Award
- Breaking the Silence November 21, 2015
- Eating Disorders and Addiction October 29, 2015
- Orthorexia: The Dirty Downside of “Clean” Eating September 23, 2015
- Changing the Brain: Neuroplasticity and Eating Disorder Recovery September 15, 2015
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP): Myths, Misconceptions and the Mirasol Alternative September 11, 2015
- Ayla’s Finale September 8, 2015
- Tori’s Story August 18, 2015
- Elder Eating Disorders: Is Recovery Possible? August 10, 2015
- Mirasol Clients Give Back August 10, 2015
- “Kick Your Eating Disorder’s Butt!” July 29, 2015
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