Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents: A New Treatment Option – Dr. Delia Aldridge

<div>Eating Recovery Center in Northbrook, IL is one of the few eating disorder treatment centers that have the ability to treat children and adolescents of all genders with severe eating disorders, with the ability for tube feeding and treating comorbid issues as well as early onset eating disorders.&nbsp;</div>



Join me on December 5, 2019 where I’ll be presenting “Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents” at the Complex Healing: Guiding our Child & Adolescent Patients Through a Mood, Anxiety and Eating Disorder Symposium in Deerfield, IL. 

Register here to join us in-person or via Livestream.


Treating eating disorders in children

When I first started working in the field of eating disorder treatment about 17 years ago, we saw young people with severe eating disorders probably once every few months. Today, we are seeing an increase in the severity of these illnesses in children and teenagers and an increase in co-occurring issues as well.
Children and adolescents with eating disorders are so vulnerable. Few treatment centers are able to effectively treat severe eating disorders, particularly in children, in an acute setting. To be successful with eating disorder treatment, professionals must address treatment from medical, nutritional, and psychotherapeutic approaches. Treatment centers must also include families in the recovery process. When these steps are followed, the child will have the best chance at recovery.

Severe eating disorder treatment in the Midwest

Eating Recovery Center (ERC) and Insight Behavioral Health Centers provide unmatched expertise at our newest treatment center in Northbrook, Illinois. Offering two distinct programs for children and teens ages 10-17, ERC provides comprehensive eating disorder treatment for anorexia, bulimia nervosa, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), binge eating disorder and related disorders. Insight provides specialized mood, anxiety and trauma-related disorder treatment. Both programs are covered by most major insurance plans. 
Northbrook is uniquely positioned in the Midwest to provide best-in-class care. A number of unique qualities set us apart from other treatment centers around the country, like the following:

  1. Strong multidisciplinary teams with extensive clinical expertise 
  2. Specialized medical support and concurrent psychiatric and nutritional stabilization 
  3. Targeted assessment and formulation of not just age-appropriate but developmentally appropriate treatment plans; this is critical in addressing the varied needs of young patients and meets them where they are developmentally
  4. The ability to handle weight restoration and use tube feeding when necessary
  5. Evidence-based therapies including Emotion-Focused Family Therapy (EFFT)Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO DBT), Multifamily Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and more
  6. A comfortable, kid-friendly, healing environment
  7. Supporting patients and their families throughout the full continuum of care

We often see co-occurring conditions, including self-injury, substance use, anxiety, and mood issues in individuals with eating disorders. At Northbrook, we are well-equipped to treat all of these issues — no matter how complex the eating disorder is and no matter how many additional diagnoses an individual might have. 

Family involvement: key to eating disorder treatment

From almost two decades of working in this field, I know all too well that when a child struggles, the parents take on some of that child’s pain. This pain is felt by all who know and love them. It is incredibly overwhelming to try to make sense of why the eating disorder has so much power and parents often come to me at a loss as to how to help their child thrive once again. 
Parents do not cause the child’s eating disorder, but they can and do play a critical role in the child’s recovery. If we neglect to include families in treatment, we may see children discharge too early, forget the skills they learned from their care team, and relapse once they return home. Following relapse, the child must return back to treatment — and the cycle begins again.
By incorporating families into the treatment process, we can:

  • Teach parents and other family members the same skills that we teach our young patients
  • Empower parents with skills to support their child at home by creating a much-needed recovery structure. 
  • Reduce the chance of relapse and increase the chance of recovery 

Here at Northbrook, family members join us on site where they work side by side with us and with their child. This family-oriented treatment approach is based in Family Based Treatment and Emotion-Focused Family Therapy. These approaches are widely known, widely used and widely studied as being the most effective approaches to help young patients achieve long-term recovery from eating disorders. 
Eating Recovery Center has long focused on family involvement in treatment. Our robust family support options include:

  • Family therapy — In a safe space, family therapy helps to improve communication and teach skills to help the family unit heal from the effects of serious mental illness. Empowered families become behavioral and emotional coaches. Families learn and practice skills from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and other evidence-based therapies. 
  • Multifamily education groups — Led by therapists, these sessions support and empower parents, caregivers and other family members as they practice new skills and gain support from others facing similar challenges.
  • Family psychoeducation — This evidence-based approach provides information and support to families to understand the diagnosis and how it affects the family system as they find coping skills in a supportive, empathetic environment.
  • Family Days program — Held once per month, Family Days a full day of education, support and skills training to help families learn how to effectively support their loved one’s recovery. Families are encouraged to attend monthly Family Days while their loved one is in treatment, and they are invited to return and attend Family Days even after their loved one has discharged from ERC/Insight.
  • Multi-Family Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) — In a supportive environment, parents learn DBT skills to help improve relationships, communication, and interpersonal dynamics. Parents learn how to coach their children in using these skills, and children are able to bring up these skills with their parents outside of treatment. The family system as a whole benefits.  

Eating disorders in children: evidence-based treatment 

Our commitment to our patients runs deep and our strength lies in the quality of treatment provided. Evidence-based psychotherapies, ongoing family involvement and communication, and a compassionate, experienced care team allow us to treat even the most medically complex cases. 
At Northbrook, we are the only provider in the Chicagoland area that sees patients throughout the full continuum of care — offering the following levels of care for patients age 10-17 of all gender expressions:

  • Residential
  • Partial Hospitalization Programming (PHP)
  • Intensive Outpatient treatment (IOP)

Each of us is born with a very unique temperament. As a result, we all respond differently to treatment. Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO DBT) is an empirically based, innovative treatment that addresses each person’s unique temperament in the therapeutic alliance. For example, therapists will engage patients that are emotionally overcontrolled (detail-oriented, inhibited, perfectionistic) and patients who are more emotionally undercontrolled (less cautious, less rigid, and act out based on moods) in different ways in treatment.
Here’s an example: RO DBT becomes highly relevant when reinforcements are used in therapy. Those with a more overcontrolled bio temperament are not typically as influenced or responsive to rewards — so we might have to get more creative with incentives. Transdiagnostic approaches like these enable us to treat each person individually; we are not just treating a diagnosis. This individualized approach to treating each patient is incredibly valuable.
As our young patients become medically stable and more active in therapy, they are able to move down through the different levels of care. Over time, they can shift their focus back to their academics once again. When patients are ready, education specialists here on site help our patients with daily schoolwork — supporting the student, the family, and the necessary transition back to the school. Therapists also work with patients to continue to develop the skills they need to function well at school by understanding their learning style and needs and the effects the eating disorder has on their educational development.
As Medical Director of Chicago Suburbs at Northbrook, I am pleased to be working with an excellent team of highly experienced medical and therapy professionals. Our medical, dietary and therapeutic approaches are grounded in research and experience. Many members of our clinical team have MDs, PhDs, PsyDs, and master’s degrees — bringing a wealth of knowledge to our treatment center. 

Supporting children with eating disorders in the Midwest 

Our Northbrook eating disorder treatment center is very convenient to local families — just 20 miles north of Chicago — and we can help families access affordable apartments where they can stay if they are coming from out of town for treatment. Treatment is also offered in nearby towns: Evanston and Oakbrook, IL. 
We do our best to make our treatment accessible to all families and are in-network with all major insurance providers. Should families need assistance or support, we are happy to answer any questions about coverage in an effort to alleviate the burden of self-payment and expensive out of network costs.
From the team at Northbrook, our passion is to provide the very best care to all young patients and their concerned families. It is an honor to work hard every day to save lives and watch our young patients grow, heal, gain awareness, build resiliency, and make long-lasting changes so they can begin to manage their lives again in healthy ways. A focus on healing is at the heart of Northbrook.  

To learn more about Northbrook or to refer a patient, please reach out to us. Call 1-877-711-1690 for information.
Delia Aldridge, MD, CEDS-S is Medical Director, Chicago Suburbs at Eating Recovery Center and Insight Behavioral Health. Dr. Aldridge is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist with 17 years of experience in treating adolescents and adults with eating disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, PTSD, personality disorders, substance abuse, and self-injury. Prior to joining ERC, Dr. Aldridge was the Medical Director for AMITA Health, Alexian Brothers Behavioral Medicine Institute - Center for Eating Disorders in Hoffman Estates, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago. As an expert in refeeding, she has established a premier refeeding service for pediatric and adult patients with complex psychiatric comorbid conditions including self-injury, PTSD, mood disorders and substance use disorders. 
Dr. Aldridge is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Rosalind Franklin University/ The Chicago Medical School, teaching medical students and residents about medical complications of eating disorders. Along with her staff, Dr. Aldridge published a chapter in the 2014 book, Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Eating Disorders called "Eating Disorders and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: From Primary Care to Inpatient Hospitalization." Dr. Aldridge is also one of the clinical contributors in the book: Self-Injury:  Simple Answers to Complex Questions, addressing the practical approach of psychiatrist in  treating this challenging behavior. 

Learn more about Northbrook here:



Learn about eating disorders in children and how to treat them as you read about our newest child and adolescent eating disorder treatment center in Northbrook, IL

  • One of the few centers that have the ability to treat children and adolescents of all genders with severe eating disorders, we also have the ability for tube feeding and treating comorbid issues as well as early onset eating disorders. 
  • We are one of the few treatment centers that have a long history focusing on family involvement in treatment and we have the staff and resources to fulfill this commitment to our families during and following treatment. 
  • We are filling a gap in the Midwest for an evidence-based, specialized treatment center that offers individualized treatment for youth age 10-17 wherein patients can seamlessly transition between Residential and Partial Hospitalization programs while keeping the same care team.   
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dr delia aldridge
eating recovery center il

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