That fact was driven home very strongly during a recent visit to the Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Eating Disorders Program at Laureate is one of the nation's foremost programs dealing with the very real problem of eating disorders.
My wife and I were both deeply affected by the artwork of one particular patient—a drawing that depicted her eating disorder and the effect it was having on her life. On top of her brain with its' claws embedded deeply into her gray matter, seemingly in complete control, was a consuming, dragon-like monster.
This young woman's drawing clearly pictures what life is like to one who has struggled and, thus far, lost the battle with an eating disorder—overwhelming, helpless, powerless, and, at times, hopeless.
At times like this we need God and His power more than ever. An intimate relationship with God the Father and with Jesus Christ is our number one source of strength against such a powerful foe. At the same time, there may be other avenues or resources that may help gain the victory over our personal dragons. One such resource is the Laureate Eating Disorders Program.
Laureate is situated on 47 acres of rolling, wooded hills, including a large, beautiful pond that greatly contributes to the serenity that can be found there. The Eating Disorders Program is part of a much larger network of treating addictive behaviors and disorders such as alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, depression, suicide, etc. The Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital is a not-for-profit facility and is part of an even larger network—the St. Francis Health System.
The Eating Disorders Program is under the direction of Dr. Craig Johnson, PhD, a well-known expert in the eating disorders field for over 27 years. Dr. Johnson has been at the helm of Laureate since 1989 and is now also involved in an innovative research project exploring possible genetic dispositions to anorexia nervosa within families.
Dr. Johnson was the founding editor of the International Journal of Eating Disorders and a founding member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the Eating Disorders Research Society. He is also past president of the National Eating Disorders Association. Dr. Johnson has authored three books and over 70 scientific articles. He is ably assisted by Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, MD, medical director, Dr. Scott Moseman, MD, medical director, Adolescent Track; and several other competent therapists and staff nurses.
Laureate specializes in treating all eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorders and other eating related difficulties.
We were impressed by the staff's obvious personal concern and care of their patients. According to their Web site, their philosophy is as follows:
"The innovative eating disorder program at Laureate has earned national recognition because we deliver results. In fact, more than 50 percent of our patients have sought treatment elsewhere before turning to Laureate.
"Our patients often struggle with fears of growing up, working successfully and being involved in loving relationships. Through cutting-edge research, Laureate is exploring the genetic basis of the disorders as well as innovative treatment models.
"Our staff is trained in a variety of psychotherapy techniques. We can help to clarify your unique issues and how to cope with them. Many of our patients struggle with depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive symptoms before developing an eating disorder. These problems may require sophisticated therapy and medications to remedy.
"Our treatment program is highly individualized and we never forget that you are the most important part of your treatment team. To ensure your individualized care, we keep our program small: 12 patients in the adolescent track; 18 patients in the adult track.
"For up to four hours a day, our patients are in small groups with their individual therapists. Typically, the adult program breaks down into three small process groups, each with five to six patients and led by two therapists. Treatment in these groups includes process group, body image group and meals."
One of Laureate's obvious strengths is it has five levels of care to increase the possibility of success and to provide a program tailored to each individual's needs. First, there is acute care for those who need a high level of supervision for medical or psychiatric reasons. Once a person is stabilized both medically and psychologically, Laureate has the ability to lower the amount of medical supervision. Of course, this lowers the cost of treatment and enables the patient to remain in residential care. Thirdly, there is a partial/day program where a patient is allowed to spend either all or part of her day/evening at Laureate, but is not required to be a resident. Then there is outpatient care for people who are new to treatment or who don't require a more intensive environment. Under outpatient care individual, family and group psychotherapy is provided with a minimum of interruption to one's work, school and family obligations. Nutrition counseling and medication therapy are also provided under outpatient care.
Magnolia House is also a unique care feature of Laureate's program. It is a group home on campus where women who have progressed successfully through the other levels of care at Laureate are able to transition back into society while still receiving some support from peers and staff members. An evening meal with staff is followed by two hours of group meetings to help residents cope with daily struggles and recovery issues. Residents work or attend school during the day.
Laureate is a strong believer in encouraging family members to be actively involved in a family member's recovery. It is their experience that informed family involvement and support does increase the recovery rate of their patients. Family members will have at least weekly contact with the treatment team to discuss progress and goals. There is also a weekly family support group and once each month there is Family Week. This is a special time for family members to attend lectures and discussion groups to keep them better informed regarding the struggles and challenges their family member is facing and to enable them to aid in the recovery process. Family Week is especially helpful since most patients are from out of state and this enables their family to be more involved in the treatment process. Family members will have an opportunity to meet staff members and will also have opportunities to explore how they may be an active part of recovery. In a process called "knees to knees" family members will have an opportunity to address very openly and frankly their feelings and to discuss important issues that may have contributed to their loved one's eating disorder.
According to the Family Week Handbook: "At Laureate, we believe that family involvement is an essential element in successful recovery from an eating disorder. Each family is special and unique, and often there are very complex patterns of relating and communicating. Just as the eating disorder affects the whole family, we believe the whole family affects the eating disorder. We encourage older siblings and even extended family to be involved and attend Family Week.
"At Family Week, families learn that they did not cause the eating disorder nor can they control it. They learn to be sensitive to the dynamics of an eating disorder and to examine the communications and actions that may contribute to it."
The Laureate Eating Disorders Program has helped many people slay their dragons. But one thing a patient made clear in an open panel discussion during Family Week, was that the one suffering and being attacked must have the desire and must make the decision to win the war. Christians have the comfort of knowing that we have the mightiest warrior of all fighting for us. We have to take part in the battle ourselves, but if we develop an intimate relationship with our Commander-in-Chief, we have all the power in the universe on our side. Victory is the only possible outcome. With God on the battlefield, there is no dragon that will remain standing!
Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital
Laureate Eating Disorders Program—Craig Johnson, PhD, director