Working with Family in Treatment – Secrets from Rosewood’s Family Program

“Rosewood’s Family Week Program not only touches the patients and family members, but also touches me personally. I am fortunate in this position as family therapist to witness and take part in growth, forgivness, and the recovery journey every week.” – Billie Church

A Peak at Family Week:

To get an idea of how Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders works with families, take a look at the table of contents for Rosewood’s Family Week manual.

Family Intervention Guide:

Suspect an eating disorder but not sure what to do? Download “10 Eating Disorder Intervention Tips To Help Families Reach Out to a Struggling Loved One.” Share this handout with clients too!

Guidelines for Families:

Feeling helpless in the face of an eating disorder? Download “20 Guidelines For Families: What to do and not do when reaching out to a struggling loved one.” Feel free to share this helpful flyer.

Billie-Churchby Billie Church, MC, LPC

Family Therapist
An eating disorder is a “family illness.” We say this not to point blame at any particular family member for the emergence of an eating disorder, but to emphasize that when someone within the household struggles with an eating disorder, the entire family is impacted.

Family Support
Just as the eating disorder is not limited to the “identified patient,” the recovery process should not be limited to the individual eaither. That is why Rosewood offers an indepth, compassionately led, one week family program. One of the goals of Rosewood’s Family Week Program is to provide support and education to family members. Family members walk into family week willing and ready to be open, learn, and share their story. Family members express “relief” knowing that they are not the only ones struggling with this disease, their family members, and the lies and manipulation of the disease.

Family Communication & Education
Often times, a family member believes that the goal of the Family Week Program is to “talk about the identified patient and food.” This, however, is not the case. The majority of the program actually focuses on the family itself – family dynamics, family roles, family rules, and family communication.  The week also includes “homework” for clients and family members.  This homework is an intense communication tool that each participant practices and then shares with their loved one.

Hugs and Tears
My personal favorite homework assignment is the Amends Homework. This assignment not only asks a loved one for forgiveness and identifies a plan of commitment, but also encourages family members to acknowledge and share what they love about each other. Often, family members identify the unique characteristics of their loved one, such as, “I love that dance you always do in your cat pajamas” and “that deep belly laugh that goes on and on.” Oddly enough, there are usually more tears during this assignment than during any of the other assignments or discussions.

“I love that dance you always do in your cat pajamas.”

Just the Beginning
The work that Rosewood does with families is just the beginning of a life long journey that individual members embark on toward a more harmonious future with one another. There is no “end” or “brass ring” to grab. There is only the satisfaction in knowing that each family we touch returns home more aware and better equipped to nourish and support one another within the complex relationships that make up the family unit.

My parents looked all over the country but chose Rosewood. This place saved my life. I learned coping skills. At family week my dad was more accepting of my disorder. He used to tell me to “just eat” or “cut this crap out.” But now, he supports me. I’m so thankful for Rosewood. I know I’m not “fixed.” This will be a lifelong struggle, but I seek support and I push through. Recovery isn’t easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But it’s so worth it. ~ Rosewood Alumni

I went to family week and worked out my deepest family secrets; our problems weren’t completely fixed but I started calling my parents again. I did many family sessions with my therapist and my family got more educated on how to support me. My body became more used to normal eating. Although it wasn’t a summer camp, I had some relaxing activities such as pool, tai chi, yoga, ropes, and walks. I stayed for 47 days and it was quite a journey! ~ Alaine C., Rosewood Alumni