The abuse of drugs and/or alcohol is something that many individuals with eating disorders battle. The presence of an eating disorder can lead individuals to experience immense emotional turmoil, and they often find temporary relief from that inner turmoil by self-medicating with various substances. In some cases, the abuse of stimulant drugs, for example, are used in conjunction with the eating disorder behaviors in an attempt to encourage further weight loss. Other drugs may be used for their sedative properties, as individuals seek out a means of alleviating anxiety and other distressing emotions. More commonly than not, eating disorders require professional intervention to overcome. And when a substance abuse problem is accompanying an eating disorder, comprehensive treatment that fully addresses both concerns must be received in order for true and lasting healing to occur.
At Montecatini, we know the extraordinary courage it takes to address the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of living with an eating disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder. We also know how vital it is to feel safe and supported. That is why, in a serene and intimate environment, each client’s treatment plan is customized to address her unique challenges, her unique family dynamics and history, her unique dreams for the future, and more. Our approach is collaborative and highly personalized, born out of true empathy and compassion.
We believe that no matter how long one has suffered from an eating disorder and co-occurring addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, healing and lasting freedom from such conditions are possible. Our mission is to support you every step of the way.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member Get Treatment
If you have a family member or loved one who is battling both an eating disorder and a substance use disorder, you are likely extremely fearful of the detriments that she is inflicting on her physical and mental health. You are well aware that your loved one needs help, but you may feel apprehensive or unsure as to what, if anything, you can do to assist her in getting that help. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take.
- Learn about eating disorders, including the underlying psychological problems that can lead to their onset. Gain an understanding of the signs, symptoms, and effects of the particular eating disorder that your loved one is suffering from, and become educated on how a co-occurring drug or alcohol addiction can impact the negative behaviors your loved one is engaging in.
- If your loved one is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, refrain from throwing out any substances that you may discover that she has in her possession. While this can seem like an easy and immediate solution to the problem, it will likely only result in anger, potentially hindering any ability that you may have of getting through to your loved one about her need for treatment.
- Educate yourself on the various options for treatment that exist. You may gain this knowledge by researching reputable websites or speaking with qualified mental health professionals. Once you have learned about the types of treatment that have proven effectiveness in treating co-occurring eating disorders and substance use disorders, seek out various treatment centers that offer those particular therapeutic interventions.
- Share your concerns with your loved one, making every effort possible to not seem judgmental. Be calm and compassionate, expressing that you are worried about your loved one and that you want to help her overcome the trials that are plaguing her. Also, use this time as a means of providing your loved one with a safe environment where she can express her own concerns and fears.
- Understand that your loved one may not initially be receptive to the idea of getting treatment. Do not force anything on her and refrain from making any kind of threats or setting ultimatums. Taking such a stance will likely serve only to push your loved one away, preventing her from seeking the treatment that she needs.
- Show your loved one the options for treatment that you have uncovered, and then ask her to join you in researching other possible treatment centers. Providing her with a sense of control over the situation can empower her to take the steps needed to begin treatment.
- Once a treatment center has been chosen, work with your loved one to ensure that anything that may stand in her way of beginning treatment is taken care of. Offer to help coordinate appointments, accompany her to those appointments, arrange for childcare, or help sort out educational and occupational responsibilities that she may need organized before fully engaging in treatment.
- Once treatment has begun, make every effort to be an active part of the therapeutic process. Attend family therapy sessions, frequently check in on your loved one, and remain a constant source of hope, support, and encouragement.
Why Consider Treatment?
Allowing an eating disorder and co-occurring chemical dependency to persist can lead to grave outcomes. Eating disorders alone place individuals at risk for experiencing severe malnutrition, bone density loss, cardiovascular problems, muscle weakness, electrolyte imbalances, organ damage, and dangerous reductions in blood pressure and heart rate. Depending upon the particular substance that one is abusing, further detriments can arise including kidney and liver failure, memory loss, irreversible cognitive impairment, psychosis, depression, and increased anxiety, among countless others. Additionally, other areas of an individual’s life can be negatively impacted. The social withdrawal and isolation that frequently accompany the presence of eating disorders and substance use disorders can lead to family discord, marital strife, and deteriorated friendships. Academic and occupational responsibilities may become less of a priority, potentially resulting in suspension, expulsion, or job loss. One’s self-esteem may also be affected, leading to chronic suicidal ideation, engaging in self-harm, or suicidal behaviors. By making the life-saving decision to receive treatment, however, these devastating effects can be avoided, and a healthy ad balanced life can be achieved.
Eating disorders are progressive and debilitating illnesses that, when left untreated, have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Depending on which eating disorder a person struggles with, she may suffer from malnutrition, obesity, organ damage, diabetes, and developmental problems, as well as other mental health disorders and possible substance abuse. Because of their pernicious and systemic nature, it is not enough to merely treat the physiological symptoms of an eating disorder. Instead, a person must also receive care for the co-occurring psychological issues that may cause her to return to her unhealthy eating behaviors. If treatment is to be truly successful in the long-term, it is important that each person receives a full spectrum of physiological and psychological treatment. At Montecatini:
- Treatment is provided in a warm, family-like atmosphere.
- Programming is supplied by staff who demonstrate true empathy.
- Customized, multi-dimensional treatment plans are created for each client.
- Skill-building opportunities are provided so that clients can learn to integrate healthy behaviors into daily living.
- Personalized, consistent care is afforded to each client.
- Comprehensive family support and therapy are integral parts of treatment at Montecatini.
- Simultaneous treatment for co-occurring disorders is available.
- Renowned medical and psychiatric management round out the therapeutic services we offer.
- Nutrition therapy is factored into each client’s treatment in order to help her reestablish a healthy relationship with food.
- A full continuum of care is offered in order to ensure each client’s long-term recovery.
At Montecatini, we believe that no matter how long you have suffered from an eating disorder, recovery is possible and hope is manifested daily as we work together in support of your long-term healing and inner-peace.
Types of Treatment Offered at Montecatini
Since treating our very first client in 1991, Montecatini has helped inspire and transform the lives of hundreds of women. We are nationally recognized as a leading provider of eating disorder treatment and we are dedicated to helping our clients resume their lives as healthy, joyful individuals who are ready to live to their fullest potential. Women between the ages of 16 and 55 can heal in our residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs. These programs are designed to help our clients overcome anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder, as well as co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
Montecatini is located just three miles from the Pacific Coastline in picturesque Carlsbad, California. The center itself exudes the comfort and safety akin to being at home, and our staff puts forth every effort to ensure that the atmosphere we create is both peaceful and conducive to recovery. Each client is treated with the utmost respect and dignity, and her care will be personalized to her unique history, challenges, life experiences, and needs.
Our staff of passionate and devoted professionals, many of whom have overcome their own struggles with eating disorders, work in close collaboration with each client who comes to us for treatment. By creating personalized plans for each person who chooses to heal with us, we are able to provide the highest quality of care while honoring the individuality of each client. Depending upon the outcome of an initial assessment, clients may have the following interventions incorporated into their customized treatment plans as they work towards overcoming an eating disorder and co-occurring substance abuse problem:
Medical care: For clients who are medically stable, yet still require additional care for their physical health as they navigate the recovery process, Montecatini is pleased to offer renowned medical care. As a distinguished provider of eating disorder treatment, we recognize that the physical health of our clients can be compromised by the presence of an eating disorder. We also partner with specialists in San Diego to ensure our clients’ medical needs are appropriately met.
Medication management: When a client comes to us battling a mental health condition in addition to an eating disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder, they may benefit from the inclusion of certain medication(s). Our psychiatrist is available to meet with clients once per week to assess medication needs, prescribe medication, and adjust dosages as needed. Physician’s assistants and nurses are also available to monitor the effectiveness of any medication that is prescribed and to ensure that clients are adhering to their medication regimens.
Individual therapy: Individual therapy occurs three times per week. Each client meets with her assigned primary therapist in a one-on-one setting, which provides an excellent forum to assess progress and to discuss setbacks and successes that have occurred during treatment.
Family therapy: Each client’s family members are invited to participate in family therapy sessions while their loved one is receiving treatment. This treatment method, which is offered once per week unless otherwise indicated, is designed to heal emotional wounds and promote unity among our clients and their primary support networks.
Group therapy: Offered up to five times per day, group therapy is a key component of treatment at Montecatini. Led by therapists, registered dietitians, nurses, patient assistants, yoga instructors, and art therapists, group therapy covers a wide range of topics that can further the recovery process and provides an optimal setting for clients to gain support and encouragement from staff members and other clients. Groups that may be incorporated into a client’s treatment plan as she works towards recovering from an eating disorder and co-occurring substance abuse and addiction may include the following:
- Integrated care group that is focused on substance abuse
- Spirituality/12-Step group
- Relapse prevention
- Action planning
- Outside 12-Step group
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Body image
- Therapeutic gardening group
- Expressive arts therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Interpersonal process group
- Equine therapy
- Family weekend incentives
- Nutrition counseling and education group
- Food and feelings group
- Menu planning and meal preparation
Experiential therapy: In order to help our clients nurture the mind-body connection and apply learned skills in real-world settings, at Montecatini, we are proud to offer a number of experiential therapy opportunities. Experiential therapies complement the other therapeutic interventions we provide and typically take place once per week. Depending on the client’s needs, the following may be part of her personalized treatment plan as she works towards overcoming her eating disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder:
- Challenge food outings
- Grocery shopping
- Group dinners
- Restaurant outings
- Beach trips
- Clothes shopping
Our experienced staff members, many of whom have specialized training in therapeutic techniques and treating a myriad of co-occurring conditions, including an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, assess clients’ needs on an ongoing basis and can recommend additional interventions if they are determined to be conducive to a client’s recovery.
Because we realize that recovery from an eating disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder does not end with the completion of residential treatment, Montecatini purposefully begins preparing our clients for discharge on the day they are admitted to our program. Many of our clients transition to our partial hospitalization program (PHP) after completing our residential treatment, and then step down to our intensive outpatient program (IOP) after completing PHP. Each client’s primary therapist determines and coordinates the most appropriate follow-up and aftercare services, and alumni of our program are welcome to attend our weekly support groups and Alumni Events and Celebrations for as long as they wish. Our goal is to help our clients return to lives that are not only functional, but joyful and deeply supported as well.