Eating Disorder Therapy Approaches at The Highlands

Eating Disorder Therapy Approaches at The Highlands in Birmingham, AL

The Highlands Treatment Center, located in Birmingham, Alabama, offers a wide spectrum of eating disorder therapy options that address the unique therapeutic, nutritional, and medical needs of our clients. By providing expert care from each of these disciplines, clients received individualized treatment that exceeds national standards of care.

We utilize eating disorder group therapy, individual therapy, and family integrated therapy and education at The Highlands. Effective therapy for an eating disorder requires these components:

  • Ongoing assessment and reassessment  of an individual’s unique needs and issues
  • A customized care plan based on current and future needs
  • The right amount of monitoring and structure to provide safety and gradual self-accountability
  • Spectrum of therapy approaches, since utilizing one will not meet the complex needs of any individual
  • Family participation and integration in the treatment process
  • Real-life skill use prior to returning home

Eating disorder behaviors are often symptoms of underlying difficulties or emotions. Treatment of eating disorder symptoms and the underlying issues at the same time, requires skill and expertise. At The Highlands, we have both.

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Evidence-based Eating Disorder Therapy Provides the Best Client Outcomes

The Highlands believes strongly in using evidence-based eating disorder therapy. These are therapies that have been put to the test and proven effective among the groups of individuals they are intended to treat. Empathic, nurturing guidance combined with evidence-based treatment and innovative techniques is The Highlands’ overall approach.

Some of the eating disorder therapy approaches integrated into individual care plans include:

Cognitive Therapy (CT) is a treatment intervention that has been found to be effective for depression, anxiety, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. In Cognitive Therapy the therapist and client work collaboratively to identify and restructure automatic thoughts that fuel negative emotion and problem behaviors.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy that has been found to be effective for bulimia, borderline personality disorder, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidality. DBT incorporates four domains: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. In DBT, the therapist is neutral, validating, and accepting, which provides the space in which a client is able to effect change.

Interpersonal Therapy (IT) is a treatment that has been found to be effective for depression and bulimia. The focus of IT is on interpersonal relationships and social skills. The therapeutic relationship provides a vehicle of change through

Prolonged Exposure Therapy for Trauma is a type of therapy that helps clients approach trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and situations that they have been avoiding due to the distress they cause. Repeated exposure to these thoughts, feelings, and situations helps reduce the power they have to cause distress.

Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy for Trauma (EMDR) is conducted in an 8-step protocol that includes having clients recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input (e.g., side-to-side eye movements). The goal of EMDR therapy is to process traumatic memories, reducing their lingering effects and allowing clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms.

Cognitive Processing Therapy for Trauma (CPT) helps clients with trauma-related symptoms by processing and restructuring the core beliefs instilled by the trauma. The theory behind CPT conceptualizes PTSD as a disorder of “non-recovery” in which erroneous beliefs about the causes and consequences of traumatic events produce strong negative emotions and prevent accurate processing of the trauma memory and natural emotions emanating from the event.  CPT incorporates trauma-specific cognitive techniques to help individuals with PTSD more accurately appraise these “stuck points” and progress toward recovery.

Family Based Therapy for Adolescent Anorexia (FBT) is an intensive treatment in which parents play an active and positive role in the adolescent’s recovery to restore the adolescent’s weight; transition control of eating back to the adolescent; and encourages normal adolescent development through an in-depth discussion of these crucial developmental issues as they pertain to their child.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for anxiety and depression (ACT) is an intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. By learning to be more fully present in the moment and changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values, clients learn to live a more balanced life.

The Highlands’ Team also incorporates innovative techniques in addressing eating disorder symptoms and related conditions. Examples of such techniques include Internal Family Systems, Motivational Interviewing, and Cognitive Schema Therapy.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) approach is based on the premise that people can learn to relate to their inner emotions or “parts” from a loving, compassionate place.  IFS provides a language for clients to use to focus inside and listen to their feelings and emotions without being overwhelmed.  The IFS model provides techniques to help the client heal the pain, shame, or fear from their parts and that the eating disorder protects them from experiencing.

Expressive Therapies utilize art, dance/movement, music, drama, role-play, etc. to assist clients in tapping into the body, feelings, emotions and thought process to reclaim the innate capacity as human beings for creative expression of the human experience.

Each client at Castlewood works closely with a primary team comprised of a therapist, dietitian, and staff psychiatrist. Castlewood believes that treating the medical, therapeutic, and nutritional issues of each client at the same time will provide stronger, more effective recovery.

Why The Highland’s Utilizes Eating Disorder Group Therapy and Individual Therapy

Eating disorder therapy often works better when provided in both an individual and group setting. Eating disorder group therapy allows clients to understand that they are not alone in their fears, concerns, obsessions, and behaviors. In addition, there are many other important reasons for eating disorder group therapy, including:

  • Receiving  feedback from others with similar issues
  • Learning from peers how to make positive changes and use coping mechanism
  • Supporting and being supported verbally and by being open and non-judgmental
  • Improving social skills
  •  Developing an aftercare support system connection developed during active treatment
  • Providing accountability to others
  • Partnering in practicing real-life eating skills and exposures

Many of the therapy approaches described above are used in the eating disorder group therapy setting. Special topic educational group sessions are also an important part of the recovery learning process at The Highlands. Our expert certified clinicians and dietitians provide group therapy at The Highlands.