Continuity in ED Treatment: Accountability and Support during Academic Breaks

BY: Claire Dickson

DATE: 1 May 2017

With the end of the school year drawing near, many of our student clients at CEED are thinking about what their summer treatment plans will look like. After working towards recovery from their eating disorders during the school year, students often find it difficult to go home and face the stress of changing environments, a relative lack of structure, different social supports, and an interruption in therapy. Luckily, there are steps you can take to secure that support and structure and maintain your progress toward recovery.

  • Therapy: Coming back home can trigger feelings you may not have felt in a long time. If you live too far away to meet with your therapist and cannot find a local therapist for the summer, phone therapy or telemedicine can be valuable options.
  • Support Groups: Eating disorder support groups and group therapy are great ways to stay on track, share experiences, and maintain motivation. Online support groups are a great option if no local groups exist in your area. (https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/recovery/support-groups/online)
  • Family: While it can feel like a “step back” to reach out to your parents for assistance after living independently at college, parents can be valuable assets in keeping you accountable to your eating schedule and recovery goals. In the early stages of recovery, you may also benefit from Family-Based Therapy, which has high success rates in treating EDs in adolescents and can be modified for young adults with profound results. (http://maudsleyparents.org/uofchicagoadvice.html)
  • Friends: You may have friends at home who knew you at a different phase of life, or who never knew about your eating disorder; updating them on your recovery is a crucial step towards getting the help you need in your social life. Simple requests like providing company while you shop for new clothes, refraining from weight-related talk, and providing encouragement at mealtimes will help your friends know how to support you.
  • Routines: The routines of school and classes, though stressful at times, provide structure that can give you a sense of control and predictability. Leaving this built-in routine can feel overwhelming, so take some time to decide what routines you can put in place to practice self-care and stay engaged in your daily life.
  • Goals: Before you leave, it’s important to decide what your recovery goals will be while you’re home. Sharing these goals with family, friends, and support groups is a powerful way to keep you accountable and engaged. Having clear goals to refer to when you’re struggling will help to keep you on track and give you a place to pick up with your therapist in the fall.

It can be challenging to apply your new healthy coping skills in a different environment, but it can also provide a great opportunity to reach out for support from friends and family. Talk to your therapist about what options are best for you and make a plan ahead of time. When in doubt, call the eating disorders hotline or look at the NEDA website for ideas and direction. You’ve put so much work into your recovery – keep the momentum going by planning ahead, setting goals and routines, and reaching out for support when you need it.