As an eating disorder professional, one of the most exciting moments of your work is witnessing your client complete their eating disorder treatment. You have worked side by side with them for weeks or months focusing on their underlying triggers, restoring their weight, teaching the individual positive coping mechanisms and doing your best to establish a healthy, positive sense of self into your client. The ultimate goal is for your client to succeed in their life outside of treatment. So what can you expect after your client leaves treatment?
Expect to keep in communication with your client
As a therapist, it is your responsibility to set up an “aftercare plan” with tour client where you provide a list of important contact numbers such as a list of eating disorder support groups, a directory of outpatient therapists, and a plan in case a relapse does occur. You should also provide your contact information, in case your client or their loved ones have any questions concerning their recovery. It is important to follow-up with your client, even if the individual does not call you, to see how they are doing and if they need anything. Continuing to support your client after they leave therapy is an integral part of recovery and just letting your client know that you are there for support can be reassuring.
Be mindful of relapse
Even if you are entirely confident in your client’s progress, the individual still does have the potential to relapse, and you should be aware if this does happen. In the best case scenario, your client should contact you if relapse occurs however an outpatient therapist may contact you or you may find out a relapse occurred after one of your “follow-up” calls to your client. Do not feel as if you have failed as a therapist if your client relapses and do not be offended if your client seeks therapy from another therapist after this relapse.
Respect your client’s privacy
You may have tried to follow-up with your client many times but are unable to get in touch with them. Although it is important that your client does stay in communication with your intermittently; this is not a requirement. Your client may be ignoring your phone calls because they need time, feel shameful or feel as though they no longer need your help. Respecting your client’s privacy after treatment is an important part of the therapist’s role. Even if you are only trying to check in on your client. It is okay to leave them a message every month communicating that you still support them, but do not try to badger them or gain any information from their loved ones about their progress.
Expect that your client will need to continue a lower level of treatment
Completing eating disorder treatment is not the end of the journey. Your client will need to undergo a lower level of care, which may be intensive outpatient therapy or regular outpatient therapy. You can provide your client with therapist recommendations in the area, but they are not obligated to use these recommendations. Additionally, your client should be involved in an eating disorder community support group, whether it is online or in person.