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Goals and Fantasies about Eating Disorder Residential Treatment

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Goals and Fantasies about Eating Disorder Residential Treatment

Real help for compulsive overeating


A worried mother called me this morning deeply concerned about her 25 year old daughter. The daughte compulsively overeats and is obese. Both mother and daughter are looking for an in-patient program that will get the young woman started in recovery.I think they hope that checking into the best program they can find will result in weight loss, cure and a happy life free of food compulsions 

I'm always concerned when someone says that "some kind of support might be needed after" a residential treatment experience.

To me this phrase reflects a naive hope that a person can go away ill, come back cured and the burden of the illness will be lifted off everyone involved.

This fantasy simply must be dispelled so that unnecessary disappointment and feelings of failure don't delay or even destroy positive moves toward recovery that are being made.

Residential treatment can help people get on the recovery path. After residential treatment people with eating disorders still have to walk that path, or climb or crawl or, as 12-step says, "trudge" their way to recovery.

When you know you are working toward progress, even when you are backsliding a bit, you can keep your energy directed on the healing task in front of you. You might feel frustrated at times. Who doesn't? But you can handle feelings of frustration. We've all had lots of practice with that.

When you know that in-patient is a first, not a last step you can be less hard on yourself. You can ease into the program and do the best you can. You don't have to feel a sense of failure..

By putting yourself in a healing environment you are making yourself a winner. When that healing environment becomes your own inner self, your recovery becomes more solid.

The transition between in-patient treatment and solid inner recovery is usually long term psychotherapy. How long is long? It's long enough to make that internal healing environment in you as solid as can be.

It's long enough for you to have solid practice and experience in living a healthy life in a new way without needing bulimia or anorexia or a binge or a cutting or starving episode to get through.

It's long enough to guide you, support you, ease you, escort you to a healthy life.

Please remember, the search for something "perfect", the desire to find the "perfect" program, the urge to reach the "perfect" size or be the "perfect" person in any way at all is a symptom of an eating disorder.

We humans are not designed to be "perfect". Our design is that of a human being with all our flaws and contradictions.

There's something wonderful about being like a kaleidoscope, an endless colorful variety of perspectives, intact and whole.

I hope with all my heart that the woman who called this morning and her 25 year old daughter who is locked into her own mind and body by her eating disorder, can find the help they need. They both need to find their direction to get relief from their suffering and find their eating disorder recovery path. My hope is that they will lose their fantasies and become grounded in the realistic work of recovery.

Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice. All appointments are virtual. For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Author of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder

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