When you love someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to approach your loved one about their eating disorder, how to help them seek treatment, and how to help support them during treatment and beyond. Below you will find some of the most common questions we receive about how to help your loved one during this challenging process. You are welcome to contact us with any questions you have.

Does my loved one have an eating disorder?

If you have noticed changes in a loved one's physical and/or mental health in relation to eating, food, weight or shape, please discuss these concerns with your primary care provider or contact our office manager for guidance. Sadly, unhealthy dieting and body dissatisfaction are common and it may be hard to determine whether a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder. 

Additional information can be found at the National Eating Disorder Association's website.

How do I approach a loved one about their eating disorder?

Reaching out to a loved one about their eating disorder can be incredibly challenging.
Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, a leading researcher in the field of eating disorders, recommends the following considerations when approaching a loved one with concerns:

  1. Prepare for your conversation: get a base knowledge about eating disorders by reading books, watching videos, and visiting reputable websites. See our recommended eating disorder resources.

  2. Define the purpose of your conversation: decide in advance what the goal of your conversation will be. Do you hope to open communication? Encourage your loved one to seek treatment?

  3. Choose the best time and place. Picking a safe environment may help limit your loved one's feelings of defensiveness or distress in response to this challenging conversation.

  4. Identify specific behaviors you have personally observed: use "I" statements and stick to specific facts on the behaviors you have witnessed.

  5. Remain calm and be patient: it is possible that your loved one will become upset. Keep the initial conversation short if it begins to develop into an argument.

  6. If your loved one is a child or teen, you may insist on seeking professional help even if he/she opposes it. If your loved on is adult, expressing your concern and support is crucial, as well as providing information and offering help to contact a professional for an evaluation.

How do I get help for my loved one?

For many, the first step is a consultation with a family doctor or pediatrician. It is best to seek evaluation from a health care professional who has experience and expertise recognizing and evaluating eating disorders. Eating disorder specialists may come from various disciplines, including:

  • Mental health

  • Nutrition

  • Physical health and medicine

  • Psychopharmacology

Learn more about the treatment intake process at The Healing Connection.

How can The Healing Connection help my loved one?

At The Healing Connection, we view eating disorders as diseases of disconnection. We work with the recovering individual and loved ones to restore connections with self, others, and the world around us.

The Healing Connection is licensed by the New York State Office of Mental Health and is an affiliate of the Western New York Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders (WNYCCCED). This partnership offers patients and families access to a coordinated, continuous spectrum of care throughout the New York region. Learn more about the benefits of receiving treatment with our network of eating disorder treatment providers.

Treatment at The Healing Connection is delivered by an expert and specialty-trained multidisciplinary staff committed to interdisciplinary collaboration. Meet our team of eating disorder specialists here.

What can my loved one expect during treatment?

The Healing Connection houses a partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, and, outpatient clinic.

See Program Specifics Here:

Learn more about The Healing Connection's treatment groups, view a sample treatment schedule, and read about our nutritional counseling.

How are families involved in treatment?

Involvement from family, friends, and loved ones is crucial in order to rebuild the connections damaged by an eating disorder. The treatment plan is continually revised, based on the changing needs of patient and family during treatment.

Our treatment schedule provides several dedicated periods for family work each week. Families, when possible, should make every effort to attend our family sessions, which include:

  • Individual family therapy sessions with a specialized mental health therapist

  • Weekly parenting group co-led by a therapist and parent peer mentor from the Western NY Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders; parents are provided with educational materials, coaching, skill-building, and meal-planning/meal-time assistance.

  • Weekly multi-family therapy group attended by all patients and their families/significant others; this group aims to increase patients' and families' understanding and education about eating disorders and how eating disorders influence family dynamics.

What happens after treatment?

At The Healing Connection, we know that recovery is an ongoing process that requires (repetitive) continued commitment and support after discharge from our treatment facility. Our staff is well-equipped to recommend specialists across the region, including mental health therapists, psychiatrists, and nutritional counselors/dieticians. When available, we provide information on local support groups and life coaching.

If it is determined by our treatment team – in collaboration with the patient, family, and family doctor – that a patient requires continued treatment at a different level of care, we will work with our WNYCCCED case manager and network of the Western New York Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders to ensure that the patient receives the appropriate ongoing support.