By Christa Banister
While sharing a room may conjure up childhood memories of bunking up with a sibling or that college roommate who had horrible taste in music, emotional support in eating disorder treatment is absolutely vital. It’s for this reason that being paired up, rather than embracing an isolated, island mentality during recovery, is a helpful strategy.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t have alone time for journaling, a breath of fresh air, or personal reflection during treatment. But when dealing with serious, life-and-death issues often hidden from others, there are numerous benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of eating disorders.
Whether you’re struggling with eating disorder issues, mental health challenges, or both, interacting with people who have shared similar experiences offers a powerful connection. Acceptance. A sense that you’re working together toward a common goal. Plus, if you’re awake in the middle of the night and could use someone to talk to, you’ve got someone close by who may be able to lend an ear.
The Power of Peer Support
Hearing, and learning from your peers’ personal stories is also therapeutic and empowering. You never know when a specific detail from someone else’s journey may turn on a light bulb for your recovery journey.
In addition to therapists, case managers, and other members of a treatment team, peer support workers offer valuable emotional support in eating disorder treatment. With real-world experience in navigating life after treatment and recovery from eating disorders and mental health issues, they can offer hope by modeling healthy behaviors that have worked for them.
A SAMHSA report from 2017 showed a positive correlation between treatment and social support. Along with a notable increase in self-esteem and confidence that can make a difference in rehab, peer support during recovery helped provide a greater sense of control and ability to bring about sustainable life changes.
And rather than feeling like treatment is one-size-fits-all, employing the buddy system of peer involvement also leads to a greater feeling of inclusivity and responsiveness to participants’ specific needs.
Other proven ways that peer support makes a tangible difference include:
- Increased engagement in self-care and wellness strategies
- Camaraderie that leads to greater empathy
- A safe space for re-engaging socially without substance use
- Decrease in psychotic symptoms
- Decrease in depression
- Reduced hospital admission rates
- Decreased costs to the mental health system
- A longer duration of investment in the recovery community
- Increased engagement during treatment
- The sense that someone is cheering you on as you set achievable goals and work toward a healthier lifestyle
- Not feeling alone during a new phase of your life
- The validation of feeling “normal”
- Connections to helpful community resources
Choosing Treatment That’s Right For You
The decision to prioritize your health and well-being by signing up for eating disorder treatment is a game-changer. It’s not only your life that’s impacted, but the lives of everyone around you, especially those who care about you most. Still, the decision can feel a little intimidating.
One aspect that is particularly important when choosing a treatment program is making sure you have enough emotional support. That’s one of many reasons why facilities encourage shared rooms. While some people may assume it’s more of a money-saving measure or an effort to maximize space, there’s a distinct clinical purpose behind pairing up.
When making the decision to pursue recovery, going alone doesn’t allow for the infusion of community that’s vital to the process.
Here at The Meadows Ranch, our private eating disorder treatment is tailor-made for your specific needs in a caring, comfortable community where you’ll get a front-row seat to the benefits of peer support. Our beds are situated together in rooms throughout our homey cabins, offering comfort and camaraderie on a sprawling 50-acre ranch. For those who can’t share a room for one reason or another, we can and do make accommodation on a case-by-case basis. Even then, we still encourage peer interaction, knowing there’s no substitute for that kind of “been there, done that” support.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder or mental health challenge, help is available seven days a week. To learn more about The Meadows Ranch and our proven treatment approach, reach out today.