Bulimia Treatment

A woman with a long history of bulimia nervosa often comes to an inpatient or residential treatment center believing that her hope is lost.

Or she may believe that she isn’t capable of feeling good about herself, or regaining confidence in her future.

Often, her beliefs about food and eating, dieting, or exercise behaviors are tightly intertwined with feelings of anxiety, sadness, fear, anger, shame and other complicated emotions. Although a woman with bulimia symptoms frequently excels academically or professionally, she can’t understand why she continues to binge and purge despite her desire to stop, and the negative physical, emotional, social and/or spiritual consequences she suffers.

We Take a Holistic Look at Bulimia Treatment

While many bulimia treatment centers focus exclusively on treating a woman’s eating disorder, our integrated treatment team takes a step back and looks at the whole person. That’s because some of us have suffered the effects of bulimia nervosa ourselves, and struggled to achieve recovery through multiple rehab programs.

Through our experience, we’ve learned that many women diagnosed with bulimia nervosa also suffer from co-occurring psychiatric or addictive disorders, sometimes referred to as a dual diagnosis. These conditions may either contribute to the cause of bulimia, or they may develop as a woman attempts to cope with bulimia side effects or manage the symptoms of an eating disorder.

Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center places more emphasis up front on understanding a woman’s entire history of addictive and/or compulsive behavior, given the critical impact these co-occurring conditions will have on treatment and recovery from bulimia. Psychiatric conditions or disorders commonly co-existing with bulimia nervosa include:

  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • panic and anxiety disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • obsessive compulsive personality disorder (which is different from OCD)
  • borderline personality disorder
  • sleep disorders
  • substance abuse disorders, including alcoholism, drug addiction and abuse of prescription drugs

Why Is Our Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa Successful?

Effective approaches to eating disorder treatment and recovery consider all available information about a resident, and leverage the resources of an integrated staff of experts to customize each woman’s treatment for bulimia nervosa.

This level of collaboration is one of the distinctive benefits of bulimia treatment at a leading rehab center like Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. It’s also one of the reasons why so many leading outpatient eating disorder specialists and inpatient hospitals recommend us to their patients who need more intensive bulimia treatment, or who have struggled to sustain recovery in a lower level of care.

Before Admission

Assessment of a woman’s treatment needs begins early on in our admissions review process. We ask both the woman and her family to provide information about her symptoms of bulimia, issues with friends and family, and challenges in school or work. We also seek her permission to communicate with previous eating disorder treatment providers to gather additional information about medical history, psychiatric history, past eating disorder treatment progress, and stumbling blocks to achieving or maintaining recovery from bulimia.

Thorough Intake Assessment

Once she is admitted, each woman undergoes a comprehensive medical and psychiatric assessment. She is then assigned an eating disorder treatment team with several members whom she will meet individually after she settles in on campus:

  • Primary therapist
  • Family therapist
  • Psychiatrist (MD)
  • Internal medicine physician (MD)
  • Registered dietician (RD)
  • Eating disorders specialist

Each treatment team member provides an assessment within the woman’s first days at Timberline Knolls. The findings are integrated and reviewed with our entire clinical staff, including other therapists and psychiatrists. As a result, our full knowledge about effective treatment for bulimia is integrated into each woman’s treatment plan.

Taking Ownership of Treatment

We believe it is critical for each woman to take ownership of her treatment and recovery from the outset. Once her treatment plan is formulated, our team’s recommendations are shared with the woman in her first care conference, which will include her primary therapist, family therapist, psychiatrist, discharge planner, nursing staff and lodge staff. This cooperative approach gives her input into the goals for her treatment and allows her to choose several elective elements of her program. She will be asked to sign off on her treatment objectives and the progression of her plan for treatment of bulimia nervosa and any other co-occurring psychiatric or addictive disorders. This conference also sets stage for ongoing collaboration between the woman and her treatment team throughout her stay in residential treatment.

Looking Forward to Recovery

Following the initial care conference, the treatment team will meet weekly throughout the resident’s stay, and consult each other informally to monitor her progress and to make sure her recovery needs are being fully supported. If new bulimia symptoms appear, a woman may also undergo additional psychological testing or medical evaluation to insure her bulimia treatment considers all relevant aspects of her health.

Additionally, women with other medical symptoms or complications from bulimia may be referred to consulting healthcare providers such as a dentist, cardiologist, gynecologist, orthopedic surgeon, or gastroenterologist.

Our Staff is Committed to Meeting You Where You Are

Every woman who commits to treatment for bulimia brings her own story of challenges, emotions, and heartache. We focus on meeting each woman where she is, and supporting her in an uplifting, empowering manner, not through shaming or policing her behavior.

Several members of our eating disorder treatment staff have personal experience overcoming the effects of bulimia nervosa. Our psychiatrists and therapists know that a woman doesn’t want to engage in bulimic behaviors, but that symptoms are an attempt to cope with complicated emotions. We also understand the complex fears and obstacles that come with committing to residential bulimia treatment, and seeking a new path with different behaviors, thinking patterns, and a different way of living.

That’s why we take such an integrated, individualized approach to the treatment of bulimia by helping girls and women:

  • Identify emotional triggers for symptoms of bulimia nervosa, which may have other underlying causes that have not been properly identified or addressed
  • Create awareness of healthy ways to respond to stress, fear, anger, sadness or shame
  • Avoid destructive “either/or” thought patterns that add to the sense of hopelessness and unmanageability that many women experience in their disease
  • Develop confidence in her potential to make healthy choices one day at a time that will lead to life-long recovery

We don’t make assumptions about a resident’s experience and needs based on her age, weight, or patterns of bulimic symptoms. Residents receive coaching and reinforcement that is individualized to help them grow in key areas of interpersonal skills, distress tolerance and management, reality acceptance skills, and emotional regulation skills.

What is Bulimia Nervosa Treatment like at TK?

A woman’s experience at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center may differ significantly from other rehab facilities or bulimia treatment programs she has attended. That is by design.

Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment and Recovery

There is no such thing as a miracle cure for bulimia nervosa.

Every woman who seeks recovery from bulimia must develop tools she can trust to help her healthfully experience emotions that used to trigger binges and purges. We work with our residents to help them recognize their feelings and identify the conscious choices they make throughout their day. Through ongoing, supportive reinforcement women learn to trust the tools we give them in situations where they would have previously turned to their bulimia.

As they gain confidence in their ability to make positive, healthy choices, they experience improved self-image and body acceptance, reduced stress and anxiety, healing of trauma, and increased self-awareness. They begin to lose the sense of loneliness and isolation they experienced so much of in the disease. The come to know the healing power of belonging and healing in a recovery community.

Comprehensive and individualized eating disorder treatment plans use approaches proven to help women learn to healthfully experience their emotions and develop the tools to recover from bulimia disorder. Specific examples include:

  • one-on-one therapy sessions
  • expressive and experiential therapy
  • education about disease processes and recovery
  • meal support and regular consultation with dietary staff
  • group sessions to teach and practice behavior modification and emotion management
  • family therapy (including family participation)
  • twelve-step facilitation
  • onsite and offsite twelve-step meetings
  • weekly psychiatric consultation
  • trauma awareness and recovery groups
  • educational services for school-age women at Timberline Knolls Academy

Expressive Therapy Provides a Healthy Outlet for Emotions

Expressive therapy has been clinically proven to promote healing and recovery in women with bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and other eating disorders. It also provides a needed creative outlet and physical exercise that strengthen women during treatment for bulimia, and after they return to their home environment. Our expressive therapy program includes a variety of outlets a woman can select based on her personal interests:

  • art therapy in a historical art studio that supports painting, sculpture and other medias
  • dance/movement therapy
  • empowerment group (experiential trauma recovery)
  • self-defense in our on-site fitness facility
  • outdoor recreation such as volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton or gardening on our 43 acre campus

A Realistic, Supportive Approach to Nutrition

Many teens and adult women come to a residential treatment center for bulimia with great apprehension about meals. We believe that healthy changes in eating behavior begin with listening and empathy, not with policing or judgment.

Our nutrition and eating disorder treatment staff focuses on creating an environment where a woman can feel safe expressing the emotions that arise in the context of food and eating. Learning to verbalize her feelings, a woman will start to realize that she is not alone with her illness, or in her struggle to cope with her fear, sadness, anger and shame. Our nutritional philosophy focuses on supporting women as they seek this awareness and helping them develop confidence in their ability to make healthy choices about food with support. Experiential activities like shopping and cooking give residents the chance to practice skills needed to overcome bulimia in the real world while still surrounded by eating disorder treatment professionals who understand the challenges of recovery.

We recognize that successful treatment for bulimia must also equip a woman’s family to engage in the process of recovery during and after her stay at a bulimia treatment center. Nutrition and meal preparation approaches are part of weekly family conferences over the phone, as well as hands on sessions with our eating disorder specialists and dieticians during on-campus visits. When clinically useful, we may also encourage the family to practice these skills together during a during off-campus meals.

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