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Teen Eating Disorder Healing (Part Two): Stages of Change

Teen Eating Disorder|ParadigmMalibu.com

It’s easy to question whether you’re fully recovered from an addiction. If you’ve still got the unhealthy thinking patterns, if there’s still a tendency to limit your food (even though you no longer do so) are you still under the influence of a teen eating disorder?


In the first part to this series, questions regarding recovery were presented, as well as the story of Dr. Dooley-Hash. In this article, the last part to this series, the stages of change are listed below as a way to highlight the various transformations a teen goes through on the road to recovery. When an adolescent is fully recovered, there is a confidence that he or she won’t be affected by the presence of certain thoughts. Likely, he or she won’t be threatened by an unhealthy urge. To explore the differences in the stages of change, they are presented below.


Pre-contemplation: At this stage, a teen may not recognize there is a problem. There are no thoughts about making any change at all. If anyone points out a concern, an adolescent in this stage would feel that that he or she is exaggerating. The impact of the problem has not become conscious and there is no consideration to make any adjustment to one’s life.


Contemplation: Teens in this stage are willing to consider that there might be a concern. However, there ambivalence is high. They haven’t made a firm decision to change; rather, they know that their eating patterns are problematic and are willing to look at pros and cons. At this stage, a counselor or therapist might make accompany an adolescent through a risk-reward analysis. Together, they might examine previous attempts to change in the past, causes for failure, and benefits and barriers to change.


Determination: The hallmark of this stage is that a decision to change has been made. Although there continues to be some ambivalence, the determination to change is strong enough to outweigh any obstacles. There is a serious attempt to change with a realistic look at anticipatory problems, concrete solutions, and a sensible plan for recovery.


Action: As the energy of determination continues to build, an adolescent takes action and chooses to implement his or her recovery plan. A teen might make their commitment to change public by telling friends in order receive external validation for their efforts. This stage might also include attending support groups, AA meetings, or individual therapy. As a recovery plan succeeds, emotional rewards might also become evident such as self-confidence, happiness, and optimism.


Maintenance: Although a recovery plan is in place and a teen has taken action towards that plan, maintaining a healthy relationship to food can be challenging. This stage might even include relapse, but the foundation for a sober life is becoming firm. An adolescent is becoming more aware of old habits and is growing the ability to make healthier choices. The test of this stage is maintaining the new behavior in order to create a life-long change.


Termination: Some clinicians do not include this stage in the TTM model, particularly when applied to addiction. Some clinicians believe that once there is an addiction, there will always be one and that the stage of maintenance is ongoing. However, other clinicians see this stage a time when the individual is no longer tempted or threatened by any teen eating disorder habits. He or she has complete confidence in his or her recovery.


It should be noted that these stages of change could be applied to anything. However, they have successfully been used for over 30 years with healing from addictions and teen eating disorders. Whether you are someone you care for is searching for freedom from unhealthy eating behaviors, the stages above present a roadmap for change.





Eating Disorders Glossary – Symptoms and Behavior. Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders. Retrieved on May 8, 2014 from: http://glossary.feast-ed.org/2-eating-disorders-symptoms-and-behaviors




By Robert Hunt
If you are reading this on any blog other than Paradigm Malibu or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

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