Sunday 3 September 2017

Eating disorder recovery? Is your child 'stuck'? Do they need something to nudge them forward? This solution worked for us, so it might just work for you...

Recently a mother emailed to ask if I had any tips for what to do when your child is 'stuck'. Your child has got 'so far' in their eating disorder recovery but - for some reason - have found themselves 'treading water', unable to move forward. Here's an edited version of my reply, in case your son or daughter is 'stuck' and needs encouragement to continue to move in the right direction towards eating disorder recovery.

My son got well and truly stuck in the spring of 2011. By this stage he was desperate to recover from anorexia, and he'd done really well since he began working towards recovery back in October 2010. But he'd reached a stage where the eating disorder was just too strong for him.

He'd reached a frustrating plateau, a 'no-man's land' where he was stuck.

Nobody had any suggestions or ideas. Not me, not CAMHS (his eating disorder treatment team), not anyone - and Ben was getting to the 'let's throw stuff around the therapy room' stage, he was so frustrated. I remember the occasion he hurled the coffee table at the psychiatrist before walking out of the room.

Then, around Easter 2011, just by chancewhilst on the Around The Dinner Table forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders), I came across a post from another mum who'd tried out something called a Recovery Contract with her daughter based on something they do at the renowned University California, San Diego, Eating Disorders Centre.

All of us, including Ben, were eager for Ben to start moving forward again - and I got a gut instinct that this might just work for him.

Ben agreed, which was really great because there was no resistance. By this stage he really, really wanted something to help him move forward and so, together, we were able to devise our own version of this Contract and you can find a load of stuff about it on my blog. There is also a dedicated page along with various posts around Easter 2011 (if you click through the archives or download a PDF of the 2011 posts which you can do on this page: )

If your child is stuck, I wonder whether something like this might work for you, if introduced carefully and gradually? Another reason why my son bought into the idea of the Recovery Contract was because I positioned it as the two of us working together as a team rather than me 'laying down the law'. Also, importantly, by this stage in his eating disorder recovery, I could trust him to be telling the truth (which wasn't always the case earlier on in his eating disorder).

We also made a rule that no-one was allowed to yell, walk out or other nasty stuff during our 'points sessions', as we called them, which was when we'd talk about challenges he'd managed to overcome since we last 'did points'; anything he was having problems with and any new challenges he felt able to take on. If he wasn't successful, then no matter, we could revisit that particular challenge when he felt better able to take it on.

It was a very gradual process but essentially enormously positive. It wasn't a bribe, more a crutch to help him move forward after being stuck for so long. Yes, with us the points added up to cash (because he was desperate to have a new Xbox) but other people offer rewards like evenings out, sleepovers with friends and so on.

My son says that initially the eating disorder Recovery Contract was all about the cash, but gradually, as we began to see results, it became less about the rewards and more about the recovery. Since he recovered from his eating disorder he has always said that our Contract was the #1 thing that helped him to recover and I completely agree.

If you're at a loss for ideas on how to reignite your child's recovery, then a similar Contract might just work for you? Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to ask any questions about how we went about it, although you can find a lot about it on my spring 2011 blog posts (which can be download in PDF form here).

No comments:

Post a Comment