How The Eating Disorder Program Works
The Eating Disorder Program at Children's Hospital Colorado includes:
- Specialized team care, including Family-Based Therapy
- A seven-bed Inpatient Eating Disorder Unit that includes cardiac monitoring and medical supervision, as well as evening support groups
- A daily group therapy program (extended day treatment from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and regular day treatment from 10:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.) that includes:
- Goal-focused groups
- Emphasis on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skill development
- Group therapies specific to patient's stage of change (precontemplative, contemplative, preparation and action)
- A focus on improving body image and self-esteem
- Therapeutic meal support
- Nightly family dinners
- Multi-family groups and parent support groups with a focus on empowering the family to take charge of reversing the patient's eating disorder symptoms
- Individual and family therapy focused on equipping the patient with the motivation and skills to recover from the disorder and work effectively with their family during the process of recovery
- Creative arts therapy for kids, including yoga, dance/movement, art and music therapy
The role of parents in meal planning and meal support
Parents work closely with our program dietitians to plan meals; at the same time, patients are made aware that food choices are being provided by parents, not program staff. Placing parents in charge of daily nutrition is the first step in changing the momentum of the eating disorder symptoms that impact a child's emotional and physical health.
The shift to parental control of daily nutrition
Parents' involvement in treatment occurs right at the start our program. It's no secret that parents know your child's food preferences better than anyone, and we teach you how to incorporate a well-balanced meal plan. Meal plans can then be adjusted to support weight gain or maintenance in a thoughtful and effective manner. This process empowers parents as they work closely with the dietitian, learning meal planning during the first week of treatment and writing meal plans for their child.
Family meal support and transitioning out of the program
Not surprisingly, meal times can be quite stressful for families with a child or adolescent suffering from an eating disorder. When patients are in our day treatment or inpatient program, parents come for dinner every night and families eat together in the cafeteria, with staff support for coaching and assistance during the meal. This helps families gain confidence and build skills to manage difficult emotions that meal times often trigger for both kids and parents.
As parents' progress in their ability to manage meals and maintain control of daily nutrition, the patient's motivation for recovery becomes less critical in treatment. Parents learn the communication and therapeutic approaches used by our staff, such as understanding how different interactions with their child can either help or hurt their motivation for recovery.
Although improving the patient's motivation remains an important part of our work, parent education and confidence allows less motivated patients to transition more quickly to lower levels of care, including returning to school.
How long does treatment take?
The length of time a patient spends in our treatment program varies, but is largely dependent upon the severity of illness, along with the patient's motivation and ability to normalize nutrition with family support. Normalizing nutrition and increasing motivation is the initial focus of treatment, particularly when the patient views their eating disorder as a solution, instead of the problem.
Learn more about your family's treatment team at Children's Hospital Colorado.
Watch an interview with Madi O'Dell, a former patient in our program.