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We are all pretty unique, and though the problems we face may be similar, what works for one, may never work for another. Treatment needs will vary depending on the severity of the problem, the characteristics of the person, and the history of the disorder. For some, outpatient therapies can work wonders – for others, they never seem to do much good.

But whatever you're doing, if it's not working – it needs changing; and if outpatient doesn't work, inpatient might.

The costs can be prohibitive, but if admission into a residential facility is financially viable, there are a number of distinct advantages, advantages tough to replicate in an outpatient counseling environment.

Here are 7 reasons why residential eating disorder rehabs may work, even when outpatient therapy doesn't.

The Advantages of a Residential Eating Disorder Rehab

  1. Getting into a controlled environment is sometimes needed to help patients break free from ritualized and compulsive behaviors. Patients won’t be able to vomit after meals, won't be able to "say they have already eaten" and won't be able to check their weight compulsively throughout the day. Sometimes clients cannot control their negative impulses without assistance – and sometimes a month or two of enforced freedom from these negative compulsions offers enough learned structure for a replication in the home environment.
  2. Eating disorder patients often develop rituals and emotional reactions to such things as eating at meal time or stepping on the scale. Patients can be quite secretive about these rituals (laxative use, purging, mood changes) or even somewhat consciously unaware of their true reactions to food stressors. Observing patients in these situations gives clinicians real clues to the underlying causes of the abuse, and the behaviors that sustain it. With greater information, therapists can exert greater change.
  3. Observing the patient over a period of weeks also helps clinicians to gauge how well prescribed psychiatric medications are working – and also how well the patient complies with pharmacological treatment directions. Again, with more information, therapists can make a better judgment about treatments, and may be able to offer more effective medication strategies.
  4. One of the fundamental advantages to a residential facility, for many, is that it removes them from an environment that may be contributing to the progression and worsening of the disorder. A time away sometimes reveals the negative influences of people in the home environment, and leads to strategies for healthier living in the future.
  5. The stress and activity of daily life serve to divert intention away from recovery. None of us can stay focused on introspection and healing while meeting the demands of life, friends, family and career. A period in a residential facility can offer a breather, a time for introspection and personal recovery; a time during which the only task at hand is getting better.
  6. Therapists must earn the trust and respect of their patients, and this takes time. Working together intensively over a mater of weeks can greatly accelerate relationship and trust building between the patient and therapist, and with greater trust and communication, therapists can implement more effective and considered interventions.
  7. It can be tough for friends and family to understand what the eating disorder patient is really struggling with. In a residential facility, patients benefit from the shared experience and camaraderie of others also in recovery, also battling similar demons. It can be quite liberating to realize that others truly understand what you are going through, and the peer support of a residential eating disorder facility can offer great encouragement and positive role modeling.

A period of residential care is expensive and disruptive, but when outpatient therapies don't seem to be helping, inpatient therapies may make the difference. Many patients perceive inpatient treatment as a sort of "last resort" option, somewhere to go only in crisis situations - and for those in real crisis, a hospital may be a life saving and necessary solution. But residential care need not be an "end game" alternative, and can offer great healing to patients at any stage in the progression of the disease.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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