Families & Friends

Help for Family and Friends

eating disorder hope for family and friendsSomeone you love has an eating disorder. What now? When you realize someone close to you may be struggling with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (BED), naturally you want to know more. And when a loved one enters treatment, you want to understand what they are experiencing so that you can be as supportive as possible throughout their recovery.

You may already know that anorexia, bulimia and BED are complex and confusing illnesses. Now that you are past the initial shock of discovery, you may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, guilt, anger and frustration – all understandable reactions. Seeing a loved one suffer from an eating disorder is very frightening and difficult, but there are a few things you need to understand. First, the illness did not develop overnight, and recovery will not happen overnight. Second, know that there is reason to have hope. With dedication to treatment, recovery is attainable.

Today we know much more about these illnesses – what causes them, how to recognize the symptoms earlier and the steps required for recovery.

Even though you may find it difficult to understand, your loved one finds security in their eating disorder. To its victims, the illness is a powerful and misguided coping mechanism. But with treatment, enough time, and lots of love, you can look forward with hope to a day when your loved one will likely be able to break the stranglehold of this illness.

Support Groups with the National Alliance for Eating Disorders

The National Alliance for Eating Disorders understands the significance that a community can offer individuals, providing them with a safe space where they can begin to heal therapeutically. As the only national organization in the country to provide free, weekly, therapist-led eating disorder support groups (both virtual and in-person), these communities not only aid in decreasing isolation, but provide individuals with a sense of belonging. They offer an environment of acceptance that serves as a refuge for those who may feel misunderstood and also creates a community where participants feel seen, heard, supported, and valued.

Click here to find a local or virtual support group offered by The National Alliance for Eating Disorders


Your Role

You can play a critically important role in the recovery process. Your knowledge-based, appropriate actions and support can be a tremendous source of strength and comfort to your loved one. From participating in Family Week activities and family therapy to educating yourself constructive ways to provide support, you are an important part of the healing process.

Learn About How You Can Help

Family Therapy

Family Therapy is a critical part of treatment at Center for Change. Therapists help patients and their families explore family rules, boundaries, structure, communication styles, responsibility and effective coping strategies that can help restore harmony and foster improved communication within the family. The Family Therapy for eating disorders process helps to educate and guide family members in learning how to best support their loved one as they are learning and practicing new skills toward recovery. Patients and family members work together, under the guidance of a skilled therapist, to address difficult issues and move forward in the healing process. Family Therapy is required weekly with adolescents and as needed with adults.
Family Therapy Week, held monthly at the Center, provides intensive and extensive family therapy and eating disorder education, including multiple-family group therapy and family ropes course experiences. For more information, see below.

Family Days

At Center for Change we are committed to treating the whole person in order to provide the best possible foundation for continuing to walk the path of recovery. We work to involve families and loved ones as much as possible in the inpatient and residential programs, and Family Days is one way we facilitate this. This program is a chance for family members, spouses and loved ones to spend time with their loved one who is in treatment, get an “insider” view of our program, meet our staff, and hear from our program directors. Family Days is designed to help families and clients support one another through the treatment process. The program consists of eating disorder psycho-education groups, dietary education, medical education, multi-family support, and experiential therapy groups focused on helping families learn, experience, communicate, change and grow. Family Days is an exceptional time for family members who do not live in the area to be with their loved one for therapeutic passes and activities, and to participate in face-to-face family and/or marital therapy and dietitian counseling. We know that family members are a vital support for recovery while in treatment as well as after discharge and hope that attendance at Family Days will increase confidence in supporting your loved ones in recovery. Family Days are offered monthly. Please contact your loved one’s therapist for more details or to register to attend.  

Family Days 2024

  • December 7-8, 2023
  • January 18-19
  • February 15-16
  • March 21-22
  • April 18-19
  • May 16-17
  • June 20-21
  • July 18-19
  • August 15-16
  • September 19-20
  • October 17-18
  • November 14-15
  • December 19-20

For Parents of Adolescents

The Adolescent Residential program at Center for Change helps to treat eating disorders in teenagers and child eating disorders. We help individuals reclaim their lives from the grip of an eating disorder and associated concerns in a nurturing environment that fosters a sense of self, identity development and readiness for the transition from Residential treatment to outpatient care. Center for Change recognizes that residential treatment requires a large commitment from the family and patient, so every effort is made to help adolescents stay engaged in their lives while also respecting the need for concentrated focus in treatment. Family can expect regular contact with their loved one during treatment through ongoing phone calls, family therapy, therapeutic passes, participation in family week and active participation in all aspects of treatment from admission to discharge. Patients work closely with their treatment team and family to develop an individualized treatment plan that integrates the multiple facets of one’s identity. This focus includes commitment to supporting academics, adolescent development and family reintegration. At Center for Change, we encourage families to learn and practice Family Oriented Therapy which includes concepts from Family Based Therapy (FBT) and Intuitive Eating that will assist families in continuing to help their loved one to nourish and feed themself once treatment is complete. There is also a focus on effective and consistent use of coping skills, and awareness of self, motivation for change and responsibility for self in recovery. With every step in treatment, residents are encouraged to identify needs and develop the skills to thrive as they transition home. At the same time, we provide family members with opportunities to learn how best to support their loved one while in treatment and once they return home.

Academics at Cascade Mountain High

On the Adolescent Residential program, individuals have the opportunity to attend school Monday through Friday. Center for Change has an on-site high school that has been accredited by AdvancED (NWAC) since 2004. Cascade Mountain High offers a block schedule to meet the needs of the students. This allows us to ensure that students not only get a coherent learning experience, but also that the credit they earn is substantial enough to make a difference when they return to their home schools. Because our students both start and end their time at CMHS based on their therapeutic progress (and not based on a school calendar), a “regular” schedule does not meet their needs. A block schedule allows students to earn .25 of a credit every two weeks. At Center for Change, we value learning and put forth every effort possible to assist patients in earning high school credit and staying on track with graduation while getting help for eating disorders. Learn More

Discharge Planning and Relapse Prevention

Center for Change recognizes that there is often fear and worry when a loved one prepares to transition from Residential care back to home, work and school settings, so careful planning goes into the discharge planning process. It begins with admission in terms of assessing needs, finding resources and preparing patients and loved ones for a smooth transition to Outpatient care. Center for Change remains committed to supporting patients in the transition back to the home environment and continues supportive contact and collaboration with outpatient providers. Prior to discharge, a detailed, structured discharge plan is developed through the Center’s comprehensive discharge planning and relapse prevention programs. Family and friend supports are integrated throughout this process so that patients leave Center for Change confident in their ability to continue the recovery process and committed to engaging and actively utilizing resources.