One Family’s Story
Tia S. suspected something wasn’t right with her 16-year-old daughter, but she wasn’t sure what was bothering her. Then one day her daughter “Jane” (name changed to protect her anonymity) was found unconscious in a neighbor’s yard after she collapsed during a run. This incident led to an ER visit, subsequent medical testing and eventually a diagnosis of an eating disorder.
The news was a shock, but Tia and her husband mobilized right away. They learned all they could and assembled the full outpatient care team that had been recommended. After six months, however, Jane wasn’t showing improvement.
Increasingly alarmed, Tia and her husband requested another assessment. Jane received a recommendation for a partial hospitalization program (PHP) with ERC, in which she would participate in ten hours of intensive therapy seven days a week. Jane would then spend nights at home to practice the skills she’d learned in an independent but supervised manner. The family traveled to another city, and her father arranged to work remotely for the duration of the treatment program.
Nine weeks later, Jane was cleared for discharge from PHP, with the recommendation that she and the family participate in Eating Recovery At Home, ERC’s virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP).
“I had big reservations about virtual therapy,” Tia recalls. “Because of her learning style, my daughter hadn’t done well with virtual learning during the pandemic. And although we as parents had learned important skills ourselves in the program, I wasn’t at all sure how we would handle the challenges with our daughter back at home.”
Jane’s experience in Eating Recovery At Home inspired Tia to advocate for the benefits of virtual programming for families. Her daughter has maintained weight restoration, is repairing her relationship with her younger siblings and is back at school.
“I would advise any family to be open to virtual IOP. It provided essential support for our daughter’s transition home,” Tia says. “I can’t imagine what we would have done without it.”
Tia was reassured when the Eating Recovery At Home care team took the lead. “They reached out to us on day one,” she says. “They set our daughter up with the technology program she’d be using. They told us about the strict confidentiality protocols in place.”
They learned that Jane would participate in weekly programming, which would include (among other things): three 3-hour scheduled group sessions, one individual or family therapy session and one nutrition therapy appointment each week.
The care team promptly resolved Tia’s concerns about a possible lack of continuity in treatment. “They reviewed all the reports from PHP and connected with everyone who had been on our outpatient team,” Tia says. “They got to know Jane and our family, and they took the ball and ran with it.”
Jane’s therapist saw that the home-level system to assist with behavioral management could be enhanced in ways that were beneficial for the family. “She came up with a new plan that was innovative and unique for our daughter,” Tia says. “I can’t overstate how good the communication was through it all. Everyone on the team was talking to each other, and we felt really supported as parents.”
Tia eagerly participated in the education groups, support groups and emotion-focused family therapy (EFFT) groups. “The family therapy groups were very well facilitated and super-effective,” Tia says. “They shared so many tools and even gave us ‘cheat sheets.’ I keep them on my phone now in case I need to refer to them in real time.”
The groups also provided family members and caregivers a safe space in which to practice some of the emotion coaching skills they were learning.
Strength in Flexibility
“Virtual IOP made intensive therapy feasible for our family,” Tia says. “With other kids’ schedules to manage in the household, I don’t know how this could have worked if I’d had to drive to numerous in-person appointments.”
Eating Recovery and Pathlight At Home also gave the family a bit of breathing room. During meals, Tia and her husband were using the coaching and behavioral skills they’d learned. As part of her therapy, Jane also took part in three meals per week with her group and a parent present off camera. “For us, having someone else be in charge of monitoring and coaching those meals was a welcome break,” Tia says.
And although her husband was traveling frequently, he was also able to attend weekly family therapy sessions remotely.
“That meant we were both actively participating in the process, learning the skills we needed,” Tia says.
“The care that ERC showed toward Jane and our family was really incredible,” she says. “We know that recovery is a roller coaster, but we now have more skills and confidence. We could not be more grateful to our Eating Recovery At Home team.”
Learn more about Eating Recovery At Home and Pathlight At Home, our virtual intensive outpatient programs for eating disorders and mood and anxiety disorders. Available and accessible across the nation, these programs are covered in-network by most commercial insurance plans.