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What to Look for in Residential Programs for Teens

Most eating disorders, including those severe enough to require assistance from an eating disorder treatment center, have an onset averaging of 18. That means while many will experience their first symptoms in early adulthood, many more will be experiencing their eating disorder at a much earlier age.

The fact is, eating disorders in teens appear in almost 2.7 percent of the adolescent population. The experts at eating disorder treatment centers have noted cases as young as age 6, although the beginning of puberty is the most common factor in the development of eating disorders in teens. When it comes to locating the best eating disorder treatment program for your adolescent, earlier intervention is better than waiting it out.

So what should you be looking for in an eating disorder treatment plan for teens?

An Educational Program That Won’t Leave Her Behind


The most intensive form of eating disorder treatment program is a residential program for teens. This entails spending at least a month (if not more time) living at the facility and receiving 24/7 supervision and a daily focus on recovery. While this is crucial in catching an eating disorder early on and providing life lessons on how to defeat it, it can also disrupt an equally critical phase in the individual’s education.

Especially in the age 16 – 18 range, spending time away from school can throw a wrench in the student’s progression towards college applications. Spending extended time away, from say, an AP course may delay their ability to take the tests they’ve worked so hard to prepare for.

A quality eating disorder treatment program for teens will take these factors into account and plan accordingly. Look for a program which sets aside time daily for education, preferably a few hours per school day. Make sure that the educational staff at the eating disorder treatment center are state and locally certified in their subjects of expertise.

Finally, look for a program which will coordinate the lesson plans with your daughter’s school and teachers. With these specifications in place, a say in an adolescent eating disorder treatment center doesn’t have to mean she will fall behind in her education.

A Staff With Experience and Certification in Treating Teenagers


Certainly, some aspects of eating disorder treatment are the same at any age; for example, any program geared toward stopping anorexia nervosa will center around increasing the client’s comfort around food and removing the restrictive behaviors that define the illness. However, some aspects are very different. The teenage years, especially early pubescence, are times of great physical and psychological change, and they are the ages in which psychiatric disorders most frequently appear.

With puberty, everyone experiences the most major changes in their body that they will ever have. This commonly exacerbates or even begins body dysmorphia (distorted perception of the body image). In addition to the hormonal changes and emotional distress that come with adolescence, these can combine into a full-blown eating disorder.

Because of these factors and the socialization and interpersonal difficulties of adolescence (in which peers’ opinions and pressures often become overwhelming), application of the same techniques used in treating adults may not be as effective. They may even be counterproductive. A specialized eating disorder treatment center for teens will not only include an academic continuation focus, but will employ therapists, psychiatrists, and medical staff who are experienced in treating adolescents and can take their special needs into account.

Reminders to Enjoy Life


It may seem counterintuitive when discussing what can be a life-or-death course of treatment, but there needs to be an eye on what the future brings. Adolescents in eating disorder treatment programs should look not only what they are recovering from, but that they’re recovering to.

After all, if the recovery program is successful, the recovered individual will be re-entering daily life. While the lessons learned about how to resist impulses to engage in disordered eating are crucial, so is hope and anticipation of enjoying their life again. Many of the best residential programs will include activities and excursions like restaurant visits and cultural events like attending concerts or take a nature walk can help set the expectations for a nor only recovered, but enjoyable life after treatment.

If your teenager is showing the signs of an eating disorder, don’t hesitate. Reach out to a quality adolescent eating disorder program today.