Holidays While in Eating Disorder Treatment
By: Nicole Siegfried, Ph.D., CEDS
Being in treatment for an eating disorder is hard at any time of the year, but it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. Holidays are a time that we spend with friends and family, and being in treatment during this time may activate feelings of loneliness or homesickness. It can be hard for clients and families to remember that being in treatment over the holidays might provide the best holiday gift possible–the gift of recovery.
At Alsana, we know the holidays can be especially hard for our clients and families. We are committed to helping clients and families have a fulfilling holiday experience, while still benefiting from the structure and support of treatment.
Some examples include
- Our programs have clinical staff present on holidays, leading groups and celebration with the clients. We want clients to experience the joy of the holiday, while also receiving treatment for their eating disorder. Within our healing community, we will honor the various holidays observed by our clients and help one another celebrate as a community. Clients and the Alsana staff work together to plan celebratory activities around and during the holidays. As a community of clients and Alsana staff, we work together to ensure that all clients find joy in their Alsana holiday.
- Families may visit their loved ones at the program to spend time together. While holidays are still programming days with therapeutic work, we offer expanded visiting hours for loved ones and off-campus passes when appropriate for the client.
- Alsana will work with clients to have passes with families and even trips home if appropriate to client and level of care.
- Locations have site-specific service projects, gift exchanges, and activities to bring some festivity to the day.
Even though it can be difficult to be away from family over the holidays, some clients and families have a sense of relief about being in treatment. Many clients have struggled for years to enjoy a holiday meal without eating disorder behaviors. For families of those with eating disorders, holidays have often been fraught with arguments and tension due to the eating disorder. Because of this, some clients and families have expressed relief to be in treatment over the holidays. They experience hope from being in treatment because it provides a new hope for future holidays without the eating disorder being front and center.
Sometimes being in treatment over the holidays feels too difficult for clients and families and the urge to discharge is amplified. Although clients and families want to be together during the holidays, discharging from treatment during this time is linked with higher rates of relapse and poorer outcomes. Waiting for just a week or two to discharge in January mitigates these consequences and improves client outcomes.
If you or your loved one is in treatment this holiday season, please know that at Alsana we understand how difficult this can be. We will do everything we can to make this holiday season one filled with joy for you and your family. We are committed to clients receiving state-of-the-art treatment while also being able to celebrate the holidays. Here’s to a joyful holiday season!