Having an eating disorder can be a very traumatic experience for an individual. Fortunately, there are programs that are dedicated to helping people that suffer from eating disorders recover and live a normal and healthy life. I had the pleasure for touring Sacramento’s Summit Eating Disorders and Outreach Program (SEDOP), and gained exposure to the amazing program offered.
Summit is an accredited center for eating disorder treatment and prevention.
The program was founded in 2000, and there are treatment centers located in Roseville, Calif., and Fresno, Calif. The treatment center serves adolescents and adults, males and females, with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders. Summit provides three levels of care for their clients: 1. partial hospitalization, known as PHP; 2. An intensive outpatient program; and 3. outpatient services
Each level of care provides a variety of treatment strategies that are effective. Each level, also, provides curriculum on developing lifelong recovery skills that deal with the medical and behavioral components of eating disorders.
Summit also offers a transitional intensive outpatient program, known as TIOP, which is a two-week program offering skills to help clients transition out of treatment.
Summit also provides residential apartment communities for clients that are traveling to their facility.
Clients are provided with individual and family therapy sessions that assist in examining triggers that influence eating disorders, family dynamics and nutritional counseling.
Summit is fully staffed with a variety of professionals that are dedicated to providing adequate and effective care for their clients. They offer their clients a full medical team consisting of two psychiatrists, a medical doctor, three nurses and medical assistants. They also have three dietitians, a full kitchen staff, and yoga and Pilates instructors.
I was able to tour the facility and talk with staff about the efforts that Summit has made to treat their clients. Jennifer Lombardi, licensed marriage and family therapist and executive director of the Sacramento location, has a strong passion for serving clients at Summit. She breaks down the factors involved in eating disorders.
Lombardi states, “It’s not one thing that causes an eating disorder.” She gives the analogy of causes being similar to putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Lombardi states, “It’s almost like a puzzle, and there are five pieces that can contribute to an eating disorder.”
The first piece, or factor, is biology; a client might have a history of anxiety or depression, or even a history of eating disorders. The second one is a person’s temperament; he or she might have a hard time with change or conflict, or a hard time with what they want for themselves, and are driven, high achievers. The third component is the vain image expectations of our culture, which can create a toxic environment for those suffering with eating disorders. The fourth component is the dynamics of a person’s relationships, and the fifth component can be a person experiencing trauma or loss.
Lombardi had personal experience with an eating disorder, which fuels her motivation in providing treatment for her clients. Lombardi has been recovered from anorexia for 19 years now, and during her challenges, there were limited resources and treatment options for people with eating disorders.Insurance companies did not provide coverage for eating disorders, and it was a very challenging time for Lombardi. She was very fortunate to have the support of her family during her struggle with anorexia.
The challenges in Lombardi’s experience inspired her to create an environment in which people suffering from eating disorders and their families can be provided with adequate and effective care for their eating disorders.
Lombardi acknowledges that eating disorders can be coping mechanisms that can be used to provide stress relief for her clients.
Lombardi’s goals are to help her clients learn how to manage their stress differently and find alternative ways to coping with stress.
Lombardi does this by assisting clients in identifying stressors and how to deal with conflict; examining the client’s support systems, such as family, friends and coworkers, along with peers with eating disorders; and examining the client’s temperance, along with factors that led to the client’s eating disorder.
It is a requirement that clients enter treatment with a support system such as a family member, friend or coworker. Summit also offers counseling sessions to clients’ support systems as well, which I thought was a very important feature of their program.
Summit places great value on supporting their clients after the completion of treatment. It is standard practice that clients are followed up with every three months and six months, up to a year after completion of the program.
This is referred to as aftercare, which is an initiative to help clients transition out of treatment effectively. When clients first leave treatment, aftercare follow-up is more regular to ensure that transition is effective. If a client stumbles or relapses after treatment, Summit helps them get back on track with their treatment.
Lombardi states that an eating disorder can be a security blanket for some clients. It can be difficult for clients to let go of the eating disorder and abstain from the behavior. Even with these challenges, 60-75 percent of clients complete the program. I felt that this was a significant accomplishment for Summit.
Lombardi informed me that unfortunately, eating disorders are not recognized as severe, even though there are high mortality rates associated with eating disorders. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among other mental illness. The lack of recognition and cultural minimization of eating disorders can contribute to some of the risk factors associated with eating disorders. High risk factors include a person being highly driven and successful.
After my interview with Lombardi, I questioned why eating disorders might not be highly recognized, as they should be. I concluded that it is possible that individuals that suffer from eating disorders are typically under the radar, due to the normalcy of their lifestyle. This may make it challenging to identify those suffering from an eating disorder.
Even with these challenges, Summit offers excellent service to their clients. They are providing resources and services to their clients that were not available to clients during Lombardi’s challenges.
Lombardi’s motivation comes from always having hope and speaking to that part of hope that is within her clients. Seeing her clients graduate from the program is what motivates Lombardi to keep going fighting the good fight and helping those that are suffering from eating disorders.
For more information about Summit Eating Disorders and Outreach Program, please visit http://www.sedop.org/