Eating Disorder Recovery and Splitting

I enjoy my profession, and find enjoyment working with families and patients who are in need of disordered eating treatment. One of the main difficulties that arises during the course of treatment, however, is when the eating disorder causes the patient to view food, her body image, and the treatment process through a distorted lens.
The eating disorder will cause sweet and docile girls to turn into manipulative individuals–something they obviously are not without the eating disorder. Patients may hear something I say and interpret it one way. Consequently, they will rely their biased opinion about treatment to family and friends. Without family, friends, and professional treatment team all on the same supportive side, however, it is quite easy for patients to “split” their family against the nutritionist.

Since I am the authority figure in the treatment process, many of the negative feelings patient have towards recovery (i.e. being scared of eating certain foods, gaining weight beyond what they would like) are projected onto me. It is distressing whenever a “split” occurs, but ultimately if parents, family, friends, and professional recovery team are all following the same agenda and protocol, then it is much less likely for “splitting” to happen. Maintaining consistent communication between a client’s family and treatment team is the key to supporting patients in eating disorder recovery. Having open dialogue about treatment progress will not only reduce the likelihood of “splitting”, but also shows the eating disordered client how her distorted views are not based in truth. Once the facts about treatment are revealed, then the healing and recovery process is that much easier for patient and families.

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