woman in a yellow sweater, wearing a mask during eating disorder treatment

Eating disorder treatment during COVID-19

What is it really like to receive in-person eating disorder treatment during COVID-19?

  Eating Disorders, Nutrition, Blog

Clients have many things to consider when choosing their eating disorder treatment team, plan, or program – undeniably even more so during COVID-19. Although we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the need for eating disorder care, we know that many people in need of care may be fearful or have additional questions about receiving safe treatment during COVID-19. They may even believe that it would be safer to delay treatment in light of current restrictions and uncertainty. 

While COVID-19 is dangerous, so are eating disorders. Those struggling with an eating disorder are at greater risk for a weakened immune system, making them more susceptible to COVID-19 complications. While virtual treatment options provide a sense of community from the safety of the home environment and are beneficial for those with the appropriate medical acuity, many clients require in-person levels of care that provide more structure and support. That’s why we’ve worked hard to keep our in-person program safe and open and why we are committed to providing the peace of mind needed for clients to trust us with their recovery. Our community needs us now more than ever, and treatment should not be delayed. Our doors remain open to serve, so healing experiences like the one you are about to read about can continue to happen.

Here’s what one client had to say about their experience receiving in-person eating disorder treatment at Alsana in Santa Barbara during COVID-19. They wish to remain anonymous. We appreciate their willingness to share:

What changed at Alsana during COVID?

I was in the residential program when COVID safety protocols were put in place.

It almost felt like we started quarantining and social distancing even before the rest of the country did! Right away, we didn’t go out to restaurants or crowded places and we stopped having visitors. Staff started wearing masks and had their temps checked and we (the clients) started doing it too. It was nice to see the treatment team going out of their way to help us even though I knew it wasn’t comfortable for any of us. We also had skills labs on hand-washing and wearing masks and doing that in residential made me feel ready when I went to PHP and got back into the outside world.


What made you choose Alsana?

I was referred to Alsana by my inpatient treatment team. They said they had a lot of good experiences working with Alsana and when I was considering my options, the team at Alsana was so welcoming and got back to me quickly. I just felt good about it. When I saw the video for the Santa Barbara location on the website, I just felt like that was the perfect location for me.


Did you have any fears/anxieties about staying in treatment during COVID?

Not really. My family is in —-, so in terms of where I was at in the world, I already felt safe. Even now, we wear masks on walks, we get our temps taken every day, and we are asked about exposure every morning during vitals. It can feel repetitive and I know it feels inconvenient, but ultimately I know everyone is just trying to be extra careful and I appreciate that.

Do you still have those fears/concerns now? Why/Why not?

I’ve haven’t found myself too worried during this time. Even though we didn’t have a huge outbreak here, seeing people take it seriously is a relief. My family in — were having to deal with a scary situation and I just felt I was in a safe place, surrounded by nature and I was actually able to share what I was learning with my family. It helped me feel better knowing I was checking on them to make sure they were taking safety precautions also.


Is there something in particular about how Alsana has responded to COVID that makes you feel confident that your programs are safe?

Because the response was so immediate, and because all the staff were on board and taking it seriously, I always felt like everything was under control. It was frustrating not to be able to go on outings, but they kept explaining why we were doing what we were doing every step of the way and that definitely made me feel safe and cared for.

If there are people out there wondering if they should delay treatment because of COVID-related concerns, what would you tell them?

I would say that this program is taking things seriously and quarantine in general is very isolating and difficult. Having an eating disorder just makes that experience even harder, and there is the added anxiety about going outside and interacting with other people. If you have an eating disorder you don’t need yet another reason not to go to the supermarket. Being in treatment provides an opportunity to get support. Especially if you are all alone, this is the time you need that extra support. I can’t imagine having to go through this without the support of my team.


What is the best/most rewarding experience you’ve had at Alsana so far?

One thing that was really rewarding for me was my launching from residential to outpatient. It was amazing to hear what people had to say about how far I came. Day-to-day it doesn’t feel like much is changing, but people were able to reflect to me how much I’ve changed through this whole process and how all those little struggles and battles that I fought led to big changes.

If you could thank anyone at Alsana for being extra awesome, who would that person be and why?

I would thank Linnea (Direct Care staff at outpatient)! She just comes in with humor and understanding. She is such a great role model in treatment and she always conveys to us that recovery is worth the struggle. Also her laugh is just amazing. She’s so goofy and encouraging. I really appreciate her.


Is there anything you’re excited to try after you leave treatment?

Strangely enough, for the struggle. I have been set up with so many skills that I’m excited to just put them into action. I know there will be difficulties and hardships and there will always be another battle but I feel ready and excited to move forward.


Anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to say?

I just want to say I think it’s SO amazing that Alsana stayed open when things felt chaotic. I’m glad that I could continue to come to treatment and that the program didn’t close down or go virtual when I needed support the most.

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