Return to Residential

return to residential after recovery

A few months ago, the Eating Recovery Center of Washington invited me to tour their facilities so I would be better informed when making referrals. I'm glad I made the trip, but I had a very strong reaction when visiting their residential facility. Here’s what I experienced:

In case you don’t know, Eating Recovery Center of Washington (ERCWA) is an eating disorder treatment center in Bellevue, WA (just outside of Seattle). They offer three levels of treatment: residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient. For more information on levels of care in eating disorder treatment, click here.

First thing this morning, 7:15am, we entered the residential treatment facility and started our tour. As a clinician who will, more than likely, over time need to make referrals to a higher level of care for clients, it was very interesting to see how they managed their patients.

We toured the dining room, empty bedrooms, the bathroom (which they call a spa and looked like one), vacant counselor offices, and the group rooms. Throughout the tour Brittani, our incredibly helpful and informative guide, gave us a wealth of information about the daily process at ERCWA and the safety measures they have put in place to protect the clients from themselves or others.

It was when we transitioned from where the adolescents stay to the adult side that I experienced something so strong it almost took my breath away, gave me a bit of an anxiety attack, and caused me to fight back tears.

Over a decade ago, I was in a residential treatment center for an eating disorder. I had Anorexia, and let's just say, it was a dark time in my life. Today, I saw myself as I was back then, and in a way that I haven’t experienced since. It rocked me. I don’t know why this experience of seeing a malnourished body was any different than the others I have seen over the years. No, that’s a lie, I do know. This was different, because even though I had been at a different treatment center, I was brought back to my time in residential.

I suddenly remembered how tired, sad, uncomfortable, angry, resentful, hopeful, and full of doubt I was. I remembered IMMEDIATELY what my body felt like back then: fragile, broken, weak. I felt trapped suddenly this morning. I wasn’t of course. I could have walked off that floor just as easily as I could have walked out of my treatment center all those years ago, but that wasn’t where the trapped feeling came from. I felt my eating disorder like it was yesterday and, for the briefest moment, I became terrified that this thing was a part of my life again.

Thank God, it’s not a part of my life anymore. I was able to walk off the floor, go about my day, interact with some incredible people, and not be consumed and trapped by an eating disorder. I feel grateful for the chance to help people on their journey of recovery. I feel grateful to be able to work with a treatment center like Eating Recovery Center of Washington, and others, to provide the best care available to those with this illness. I feel grateful to have life in recovery, for my incredible support system, and to have a life I never imagined I would have.

This morning started out tough, but I’m grateful for that too.

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.” 
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

If this resonates with you, if you are trapped in an eating disorder, if you would like to explore your potential without your eating disorder, maybe we could work together in my Vancouver, WA office. To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with me click here.


Tamara Werner

Tamara Werner is a counselor, author, speaker, and activist. Her private practice, Get Centered Counseling in Vancouver WA, helps women with food and body issues learn to love themselves, their body, their life, and their relationships. Her life’s work is steeped in personal experience, having fifteen years in recovery for anorexia, in addition to being a breast cancer survivor. An up and coming force in the counseling community, Tamara has been published in a textbook called Treatment Strategies for Substance and Process Addictions, and has sat on a panel at the American Counseling Association Conference, where she spoke to her peers on strategies and tools to use with clients struggling with eating disorders. Having a deep, personal understanding of what it takes to recover from this condition, she seeks to be an example to those she treats, to let them know that recovery is possible.