One of the most important steps in overcoming any type of disordered eating or weight obsession is to find someone to talk to who can provide objective advice and help you in your journey toward freedom. Depending on the seriousness of your struggle, you may also need to take a break from life for awhile and enter a treatment program of some kind. Finding the right person or program can seem overwhelming. Here are some things to get you started.
Types of Treatment
When considering what kind of care you need, it’s helpful to be aware of some standardized levels of care.
Outpatient counseling and/or other treatment typically involves a weekly or bi-weekly appointment, depending on your level of need. When considering what types of outpatient care you might need, think of your situation from a whole-person perspective.
Do you have medical and/or physical concerns? Are you on medications that need monitoring, including anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds? If so, then making an appointment with a doctor or psychiatrist should be considered, at least for a checkup and possibly ongoing.
At FINDINGbalance we believe everyone can benefit from counseling. Whatever our struggles, there are always issues underlying them. We give some tips for what to look for in a counselor below.
Connecting with a nutritionist can be an important part of finding your way back to balance. See our article “Finding a Nutritionist” for guidance in what to look for.
If you have physical issues related to your weight and/or eating issues, connecting with a physical therapist who understands food-related health issues can be helpful, and is particularly important for those who need to lose weight for health purposes.
Once you have a core outpatient team in place (whichever elements you recognize you need), retreats or intensives can be a great way to kick start the recovery process. As a Christian organization we recommend programs that are based on Biblical philosophies and truths. The purpose of a retreat or intensive is not to solve everything in one heavy dose, but to be able to place some concentrated emphasis on particular areas for healing to occur. Our Hungry For Hope Annual Conference is a great example of a retreat designed to inject you with lots of truth and encouragement to bolster your healing journey.
Intensive Outpatient (IOP)
For those who need frequent connection with a counselor, nutritionist and/or doctor during the week, an Intensive Outpatient Program is something to consider. Such programs are offered by a variety of providers and typically include counseling, discussion of medications, group work and even the sharing of meals together.
Residential treatment involves taking a break from life for a bit – a minimum of 6 weeks is normally recommended – and being immersed in treatment in a way that can focus on the issues at hand. This is a huge commitment and oftentimes can seem daunting, but when you consider the different life you’ll live when walking in freedom from eating issues it really is worth all that you will invest.
Inpatient is the most intense level of care available. It is similar to residential except that inpatient providers must meet stringent medical and health care codes. For those with life-threatening eating disorders and/or anxiety and depression issues inpatient care is an important option to consider. It is also more likely to be covered by insurance than Residential or Outpatient.
A few things to help guide you…
Figuring out what to look for in a treatment program can be difficult. Here are some thoughts to help you in the process.
Seek Balanced Treatment
Finding a counselor is often an important first step toward getting healthier. When seeking a therapist or counselor, we believe that it’s important to determine whether their approach is balanced to address all aspects of who you are – intellectual, emotional, relational, physical and spiritual. For example, disordered eating can have some significant effects upon your physical body. If you are talking with someone who only focuses on the spiritual side of your problem (i.e. “Let’s pray about this and it will go away”), those physical issues are likely to flare back up and trigger you back into disordered eating patterns. By the same token, if you are talking with someone who only focuses on the physical (i.e. “What are you eating?” or “How much do you weigh?”), the emotional, intellectual and spiritual issues contributing to your disordered behavior will be left unresolved. In order for true recovery to be made, all five of these areas must be addressed.
What If I Can’t Afford It?
Unfortunately, many of us cannot afford the high cost of weekly therapist sessions and/or in-patient facilities. In times like these, try faith. The reality is, there is a God who created you and who knows exactly what you need. If you ask Him, He is more than able to get you to the right person. It sounds simplistic, we know, but we’ve found it to be true. We’ve seen people and churches ‘sponsor’ those in need. We’ve heard stories of funds and/or insurance coverage being miraculously provided. In Fb founder Constance Rhodes’ own recovery journey, God provided someone who didn’t even charge her for their sessions, though she certainly could have. So if you find yourself ready to get help, but unsure how to afford it, ask God to give you wisdom for your next step. And then look for His provision.
Whether you choose to talk with a therapist, counselor, or close friend about your struggles, here are some criteria to help make sure you’re talking to the right person.
- They must realize it’s not their ‘job’ to fix you.
- They should operate from a position of acceptance, not condemnation or judgment.
- If not already familiar, they should try to read up on the subject of eating disorders, especially the particular type you are dealing with.
- They should not try to minimize your pain.
- They should be willing to just listen and provide comfort instead of thinking they must always have the answer.
- They should try to accept your version of past events, even if they remember them differently. They should also give you time and permission to be angry.
- They should not try to be your ‘warden’, policing your actions or making demands.
- They should be willing to honestly share their opinions but allow room for you to have a differing view.
- They must understand that you need time to work through this properly.
Source: Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders, Dr. Gregg Jantz, as featured in Life Inside the Thin Cage: A Personal Look into the Hidden World of the Chronic Dieter, by Constance Rhodes. Page 218.
Check out our Treatment Finder page, which includes links to our Christian treatment partners as well as to non-partner referral sites.
For information and tips on finding a nutritionist, click here.