The term self-harm refers to behaviors that individuals engage in where they purposely inflict some form of physical pain or injury onto themselves. These behaviors, which are also referred to as self-injury or self-mutilation, can include any number of acts, such as cutting, scraping, burning, picking at one’s skin, intentionally breaking bones, hitting oneself, or ingesting harmful substances. While it can be difficult for many to understand why someone would intentionally want to hurt themselves, these acts fulfill a very specific purpose to those who engage in them. They can give individuals a sense of control over the pain they experience, temporarily alleviating inner emotional turmoil that they feel they do not have control over. Tragically, many women who are suffering from eating disorders engage in such behaviors, and in order for true healing to be achieved, treatment that addresses both the symptoms of the eating disorder and the self-injurious behaviors must be received.
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 the compulsion to self-harm. We also know how vital it is to feel safe and supported as one works towards overcoming these detrimental behaviors. 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 the persistent need to self-harm, healing and lasting freedom from such concerns 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 engages in self-harm, you may feel as though you are incapable of helping her. Part of this helpless feeling may lie in the fact that you do not understand the behavior, making it uncomfortable for you to address. This is understandable and you should not blame yourself for feeling confused. When your loved one is also struggling with an eating disorder, the concern and pain you likely experience can be overwhelming. You may also experience feelings of inexplicable guilt, but it is important to understand that none of your loved one’s behaviors are your fault. However, it is also important to know that there are things that you can do to help your loved one. Consider the following:
- Learn about self-harm, educating yourself on why people begin engaging in the acts and why they can be so difficult to stop. While you will never be able to fully understand the particular emotions that lead your loved one to act in this manner, having an understanding of the development of the behaviors can help you become more comfortable as you learn how best to address them.
- Learn about eating disorders, paying specific attention to the symptoms that your loved one displays. As with self-harm, becoming educated on how these disorders develop and why they are so difficult to overcome can assist you in learning how best to address the concerns with your loved one, and develop a sense of empathy towards their struggles.
- Research the various treatment options that have proven effectiveness in helping individuals overcome eating disorders and the compulsion to self-harm. Then research various treatment centers that offer those particular types of care. These are very sensitive issues and it is important for your loved one to feel safe and comfortable in whatever treatment center she chooses to go to. Providing her with options can also help ease her into making the decision to receive treatment because she can feel a sense of control over what is happening.
- Talk to your loved one. Explain the concerns you have, but convey your empathy and express that you do not judge her in any way for what she is going through. Emphasize that you want to help her, but that you understand that she must make the decision to receive help for herself. Ensure your constant and genuine support as she expresses her own fears and concerns.
- Go over the options for treatment that you have researched with your loved one. The fact that you have gone to such lengths to find ways to help her is important, but it is also crucial for her to play a role in determining what kind of treatment she feels would be most beneficial for her specifically.
- When your loved makes the decision to enter treatment, do all that you can to make the transition as easy and as comfortable for her as possible. This can mean helping to overcome any logistical issues that may stand in her way including arranging things with her school, helping her figure out how to handle occupational challenges, arranging for childcare, or accompanying her to any appointments that are scheduled.
- Once she is in treatment, demonstrate your ongoing support by playing an active role in the therapeutic process. Participate in family therapy sessions if they are offered, call to check in with her frequently, and find out ways that you can best help and support her once treatment has come to an end. Recognize that changes will not happen overnight and that patience is key. Celebrate her successes, encourage her through setbacks, and all the while, let her know that she is not in this alone.
Why Consider Treatment?
The presence of an eating disorder and the ongoing compulsion to self-harm can reap devastating consequences on an individual’s life. Most concerning are the physical detriments that can arise as a result of these behaviors. Self-harm alone can result in things such as tissue damage, nerve damage, infections, scarring, anemia, and organ failure. Eating disorders can lead to such physical ailments as muscle weakness, electrolyte imbalances, heart disease, dangerous alterations in blood pressure and heart rate, reduction in bone density, and the onset of cardiovascular problems. Besides the physical ramifications, other aspects of an individual’s life can be negatively impacted by the presence of these concerns. The engagement in eating disorder and self-injurious behaviors can cause individuals to be shrouded in a veil of secrecy, leading to social withdrawal and isolation, a deterioration of self-esteem, and an increasing sense of worthlessness. Furthermore, suicidal ideation can begin to plague these individuals, which, tragically, has the potential to lead to engaging in suicidal behaviors. By receiving comprehensive treatment that is specifically designed to address these and other concerns, however, these negative consequences can be successfully avoided, and a life of health a balance 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 disorders, substance abuse, and behaviors like self-mutilation.
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 the compulsion to self-harm:
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 the ongoing desire to self-harm, 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 the compulsion to engage in self-injurious behaviors may include the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Expressive arts therapy
- Equine therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Nutrition counseling and education group
- Interpersonal process group
- Spirituality/12-Step group
- Outside 12-Step group
- Food and feelings group
- Therapeutic gardening group
- Integrated care group that is focused on substance abuse
- Body image
- Relapse prevention
- Menu planning and meal preparation
- Action planning
- Family weekend incentives
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 self-harming behaviors:
- Beach trips
- Challenge food outings
- Restaurant outings
- Clothes shopping
- Grocery shopping
- Group dinners
Our experienced staff members, many of whom have specialized training in therapeutic techniques and treating a myriad of conditions 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 pervasive compulsion to self-mutilate 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.