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February 21, 2023

What Parents Should Know About Adolescent Eating Disorder Treatment

What Parents Should Know About Adolescent Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorders and icebergs are more alike than one might think. Picture an iceberg floating in a vast ocean: You can only see the tip of the iceberg and have no idea of what is under the surface of the water. Most people look at an eating disorder the same way, only seeing what is on the outside. This generally represents the behavioral parts of an eating disorder – changes in weight and eating patterns, excessive exercise patterns, purging, restricting, bingeing, selective eating, and so on – the things that, for the most part, you can see, measure, and quantify.

The most dangerous parts of an eating disorder (and an iceberg) are what you cannot see. Below the surface of an eating disorder are a host of maladaptive thoughts and mental preoccupations, shame, distress, and often feelings of deep isolation. Parents sometimes say, “Well, she gained her weight back or stopped bingeing, so she must be better.” Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. Despite looking better on the outside, they may still be plagued by eating disorder thoughts and feelings. 

So, what does this mean for your child? Because the underlying struggles associated with eating disorders are so complex, there is no known quick fix for this illness. Eating disorders are tough, but we understand them and know how to help adolescents recover.

At The Emily Program, we are committed to individualized services. Treatment looks different for every family that walks through our doors. Our adolescent services staff is trained specifically to work with you and address the unique developmental needs of your child.

Our adolescent providers focus on building rapport, facilitating peer support, and meeting you and your child where they are to establish a specialized treatment plan. We believe involving families in adolescent care is important, so we’ll work collaboratively with you, providing education and incorporating you into your child’s treatment so you can take an active, positive role in the recovery journey.

Why Choose The Emily Program?

The Emily Program offers all levels of care for adolescents, including outpatient, day programming, and 24/7 residential programming. We personalize your child’s experience and care by integrating your knowledge of your family with our expertise in treating eating disorders. We offer a wide spectrum of interventions, including Family-Based Treatment (FBT), medical monitoring, psychoeducation, Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (CBT and DBT), and a variety of learning activities, tailoring our modalities to the individual based on their level of responsiveness. The Emily Program understands that adolescents with eating disorders are also coping with a wide range of stressors that come with growing up, which is why our multidisciplinary team focuses on treating the whole person, not just the disorder. Our clinicians are tenacious, and our persistence and depth of commitment to helping adolescents recover are unmatched.

How to Get Help for Your Child

The first step to starting treatment is to set up an appointment for your child to complete a diagnostic assessment, sometimes referred to as an intake. This is a comprehensive assessment to discuss your child’s eating disorder behaviors so we can make a clinical diagnosis and treatment recommendations. We integrate your family’s perspective and any outside providers with whom you like us to collaborate. Getting an initial assessment is not a commitment to treatment; it is simply an opportunity to get a professional opinion. 

What Will Happen During and After the Diagnostic Assessment?

The diagnostic assessment includes a number of psychological tests and an interview with a trained clinician who will make initial recommendations. The diagnostic assessment always involves a parent or primary guardian. We also ask that you involve additional providers your child may be seeing, such as a therapist or primary care physician, so we can give you our best professional opinion upfront. We can diagnose whether your child is experiencing an eating disorder. Our goal is to help you make a decision for your child based on clinical recommendations. 

After your first session, you will walk out with recommendations for treatment options. You will be offered a second session to go through the results of the assessment. Many people feel overwhelmed with the amount of information provided, so the second session is also intended to help sort through any questions and determine next steps.

Coping With Your Child’s Resistance to Care

We know that getting eating disorder treatment as a teenager is difficult. When a child refuses to get help, it is likely because they are terrified of losing their disorder. As a parent, it can be so frustrating and discouraging to watch your child resist the very thing that they need most — the thing that could give them their wellness, happiness, personality, and life back. Know that denial of the issue can be a symptom of the eating disorder, and that your child’s acknowledgment of the problem is not a necessary precursor to treatment. Your job is to set firm boundaries and meet their resistance with strength and non-judgmental communication, recognizing that the eating disorder can make rational thinking almost impossible. Your child may very well drag their heels, but it is vital not to give in to the disorder’s demands. The absolute right thing to do is to pursue treatment.

Our staff recognizes that your child likely has mixed feelings about getting care. A major hallmark of adolescence is developing independence and autonomy – the last thing your child wants is another adult telling them what to do or not do. They may not want to be here, yet there is a part of them that is very unhappy. Eating disorders are serious, life-altering illnesses and we want to work with your child to show them how much better life can be in recovery. Our goal is to help your child get to a place of peace with food and body – a place that frees up their mind to focus on the hobbies, activities, relationships, and goals that truly matter to them. It is our hope to help bring your child back home to themselves.

There is no need to do this alone. Contact us to learn more about treatment options or start an intake at 1-888-364-5977, or connect with us online

Get help. Find hope.