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Wil Wright’s Ice Cream Los Angeles CA shirt .besteestores Looking back on my recovery journey, the also I will do this biggest turning point came during my second intensive outpatient program. The small, homey, independently run treatment center operated on an entirely different set of rules and principles than I’d experienced in my first (failed) attempt at outpatient recovery. Rather than drawing hard lines and boundaries around after-hours communication between therapists and clients, the heads of the organization encouraged regular text check-ins and more personal, human connections cultivated through chats and meal times outside of regular treatment hours. That’s where I met Alyssa Mass, MFT, a Los Angeles–based psychotherapist who specializes in eating disorders. When we worked together at the treatment center, we had traditional 50-minute therapy sessions, but we also ate dinners together, discussed our favorite pop songs, and texted over the weekends when I was in the midst of panic attacks. The approach to treatment was anything but traditional, but it worked—both for her and for me. “We were encouraged to communicate with clients outside of sessions, and at other places that’s just a big no,” she says. “But realistically, I would so much rather talk to a client in a moment of crisis when they’re sitting down to eat a meal and panicking than have them get worked up about it, experience shame and engage in negative behaviors because of it, and then tell me about it during our session five days later. For clients to know that you’re available, whether or not they need you, can be a big deal.” For me, it was a game changer.
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Wil Wright’s Ice Cream Los Angeles CA shirt .besteestores Bulik agrees that the also I will do this treatment industry will have to catch up quickly to meet the needs of clients in the COVID era, and that might look a lot more like the treatment I received when I worked with Mass, pre-quarantine. “Therapists can’t assume that telehealth is automatically equivalent to face-to-face treatment,” Bulik says. “They need to work collaboratively with patients to ensure that there is a private space where they can feel safe and come up with ways to boost accountability, like sharing the screen while clients shop on Instacart, or have a session during a meal to help manage anxiety. It will take a lot of nimbleness and creativity to approximate the special safe environment of a face-to-face therapy session online. All of that sounds ideal, but conventional health care and ingrained approaches to afflictions like eating disorders don’t shift overnight. So what should someone do if they, like me, have noticed an uptick in problematic thoughts and behaviors? Use the digital age to your advantage.
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