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Prior to arriving at Avalon Hills, our 21 year-old daughter struggled with a life-threatening eating disorder for over 4 years. Over the years, she was in and out of the emergency room and psychiatric facilities, and was also in-patient residential at two of the most highly regarded facilities in the country. While she had made some incremental progress over the years, her life remained at high risk, and she battled her anorexia on a daily basis. Our family was not sure what to do, and if she would ever overcome this horrible disease, and lead a full life.
Then the best thing which could have ever happened to us occurred, something which I still think about on a regular basis. A respected family source highly recommended that we try yet another facility, Avalon Hills in Utah. We were reluctant for many reasons. We hadn’t experienced success at previous highly regarded facilities and had no reason to believe that we should try any additional places, we were worn out and exhausted, and Utah was on the other side of the country from where we lived.
Well – long story short, we became convinced to give Avalon Hills a try, and in an understatement, it was a life-changing decision for our family. The first month or so was very difficult, however an amazing thing eventually, unexpectedly occurred, where it was obvious she was turning the corner and there was potentially light at the end of the tunnel. This first hit us – quite a shock – when we made our first “family visit” to Utah after she had been in-resident for about 2 months. We met her for a family meal on day 1, and then subsequent meals over the weekend, and it was actually readily apparent to us that she was doing better. Wow!
She continued to improve, and was able to discharge after a little less than 6 months in the program. It was important to us, as well as her, and her treatment team, that discharge only occur when she was at a point where she would be successful for the long-term. At this point, she is coming up on 2 years post-discharge, and we’re happy to say is living by herself, and eating healthy meals and committed to a healthy lifestyle! This would not have been possible without Avalon, and it’s sobering to think that we almost didn’t give them a chance.
Over the months of treatment, we were in close contact with her treatment team, and developed an appreciation for what leads to their successful outcomes. They have such a strong and unwavering commitment to successful patient outcomes, treat each individual’s overall psychiatric needs (not just ED), and are constantly working on ways to make further advances and improvements. They also work very closely with the insurance companies to ensure that the insurance companies are kept closely in the loop with treatments and understand (and approve ☺) the treatment approach. At family week, we were really impressed with their work with leading ED physicians and researchers, and their work to determine the impact of ED on the brain, and methods to be used to advance treatment. In fact, I was so impressed by this, that it led to me joining them in Washington DC (I have attended ED advocate day 4 times now) to be an advocate for legislative changes relating to treatment and prevention of ED in the future.
In summary, our family, without hesitation, recommends Avalon Hills to any patient in need of treating for eating disorders.
Kevin H, father
We became aware of our daughter’s Eating Disorder when she was a freshman in high school. At that time we knew nothing about ED’s. Over the next four years we worked to find effective treatment team members. Still, the ED tightened its grip and deepened it’s roots. During high school she was hospitalized twice for low heart rate, bradycardia and tachycardia. She was then admitted to a day treatment program. However as the restricting weight loss continued it became clear that she would need residential treatment after high school graduation. She was admitted to a well known treatment center in Colorado. After just six weeks insurance denied coverage. We were forced to self pay the remaining three weeks. She was discharged to a day treatment center in our home town. The insurance company once again denied continued coverage. The combined treatment wasn’t effective enough or long enough to give her a fighting chance in recovery.
She quickly relapsed and eventually was hospitalized again. As we desperately searched for a more effective treatment facility, we learned of Avalon Hills. The program itself and personal attention by staff sold us. While learning about and considering Avalon Hills we had questions about the nutritional aspects of the program. The lead dietitian, who was on vacation at the time, called us and our home dietitian from her personal cell phone to address our questions and concerns. Likewise, the financial coordinator talked to us after hours on several occasions helping us navigate through financial and insurance related issues.
The Avalon Hills philosophy “Treat to outcome” is evident and employees walk the talk.
Each person at Avalon genuinely cares and is devoted to this mission. It’s what sets Avalon apart from other ED treatment centers. Treatment for each client is individualized toward sustainable recovery and is assessed weekly by the treatment team. To maintain treatment, Avalon Hills fights insurance companies for their client’s coverage. Once our daughter was admitted, another psychologist specializing in insurance issues, talked with us after hours advocating for us for insurance coverage. Additionally, Avalon worked with our financial needs. Without this accommodation, we would not have been able to provide our daughter with the treatment she so desperately needed.
What set Avalon apart for our family
Setting: Both the adult and adolescent facilities are each located in a home environment in beautiful rural Utah. The 12 bed adult home provided a safe and personal atmosphere for our daughter which was reassuring to us as parents.
Program activities: Both adult and adolescent homes are close to Logan and Utah State University giving access to yoga, Zumba, swimming, self defense, strength training, and skiing. As an animal lover, the unique equine program was especially important to our daughter.
Relapse prevention program: Avalon employs a series of passes which were critical in assessing our daughter’s status in recovery and readiness to discharge. First, the Logan pass (in which the client joins her family for a weekend in Logan), then a 1 week home pass, then a 2 week home pass. After each pass, along with family input, the treatment team evaluated what went well and what challenges still existed. Then they targeted the needed areas.
Advanced treatment modalities: In addition to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, Avalon partners with neuroscientists bringing additional modalities to the treatment and recovery process.
Family support and involvement: The Avalon treatment team partners with parents/spouses. We had weekly family sessions with our daughter’s therapist. When needed, we felt free to email or call treatment team members with questions or concerns.
Family week: After 4 + years living with the ED in our family we felt very knowledgeable. However Family Week provided new insights and understanding. Attended by both clients and their family members, Family Week offered a wealth of information and experiences, including renowned neuroscience speakers, and Avalon ‘alumni’ and alumni parents regarding recovery.
Client academic education: An education coordinator is on staff to assist students in both the adolescent and adult homes in continuing their education when deemed appropriate by the treatment team. Our daughter was able to take a college class through BYU distance learning.
No cell phone use and limited internet access for clients: My husband and I did not realize pro-ED websites exist that promote ED behaviors i.e.: how to cheat the doctor’s scales. Removing web access minimizes exposure to the unhealthy “thin ideal” images which are counter to recovery during the initial phases of treatment.
Avalon Hills provided the treatment expertise, programming, setting and caring personnel that our daughter desperately needed. I highly recommend Avalon Hills to any family struggling with this devastating disease.
Mary H., parent
Avalon Hills and the AMAZING, COMPASSIONATE, DEDICATED and LOVING staff saved our daughter’s life. For 2 years, our family searched for answers to our daughter’s illness, only to find treatment approaches offered at well-known USA medical and mental health institutions that had failed to treat our daughters condition.
I will never forget that day we brought our daughter to Avalon. I noticed absolutely EVERYTHING about Avalon was different than any other treatment facility she had been in. From the lovely staff that greeted our daughter and unpacked her upon arrival to the AMAZING “direct care”, INGENIUOUS cooking staff, FUN equestrian teachers, HOPE FILLED therapists and doctors and CREATIVE AND THOUGHT LEADERS in charge of Avalon’s treatment approaches and operations. Avalon is unmatched in the quality of care and love in which it treats the children, young adults and family members entrapped by an Eating Disorder. Avalon introduced us to “treat to outcome” and that everyone can recover. Avalon was so creative and even provided our daughter a small rabbit to care for as part of her therapy. Her therapy sessions were held in that bunny house, because it was her favorite place to be. Everything about her therapy was kind, gentle and just right for her. Our family was changed forever by Avalon. It’s the people at Avalon…I’ve never met this kind of team before and know I never will again. Avalon IS HOPE….for every child and family they touch.
Anita, mother of 15-year-old Avalon Patient
To speak on behalf of Avalon HIlls is to speak on the significance of kindness and patience in a recovery setting. Throughout my time at Avalon, I received an abundance of time and attention geared towards recovery; my days were filled with numerous forms of therapeutic modalities, and there were minimal distractions. The treatment team constructs the program to be adaptable and flexible to the milieu, so it’s in the best interest of the clients whom are present. Avalon’s mission was both to treat the eating disorder (ED) directly, as well as spend ample time and energy on laying a solid foundation for life after an ED.
Avalon Hills (AH) takes a multidimensional approach to health by combining cutting edge neuroscience research and mindfulness practices with physical and psychological healthcare and education. Most importantly for me at the time was an emphasis on the subtle art of well-being, as this was lost in the depths of my eating disorder. A significant portion of the day was spent outside of therapy (individual and group), meals and meal support, neurofeedback, and scheduled physical activities and outings, so experimenting and discovering what I liked to do and how I liked to spend my time outside of things related to my body and food intake was key to laying a foundation for discharge. The program is incredibly well designed to treat the full spectrum of eating disorders, and to do it simultaneously, as everyone’s eating disorder is unique to them and their own personal history, and we (the clients) needed to learn how to be supportive while developing healthy boundaries.
So many of the women came to AH because other treatment centers just didn’t work or give them what they needed, and AH was the antidote for this. Avalon Hills provided strict rules and guidelines that were imperative for symptom interruption and made it impossible to use ED behaviors without the awareness of the treatment team. While this is a daunting reality, it is essential to recovery, as it ensures that no one is fully discharged who is still actively engaged in eating disorder behaviors. Symptom interruption is only the first stage of recovery at Avalon, to which there are 3 more stages that the individual must undergo before the treatment team agrees that the individual is ready to be discharged. Therefore, no matter how strong someone’s eating disorder is the clients, including myself, were grateful for this degree of surveillance, because it was truly coming from a place of care to ensure the client’s long-term success.
Throughout my time at Avalon I was introduced to a wide variety of resources to aid in my personal recovery process, which nourished the part of me that needed individualized treatment without negating the essentials of being treated in the group setting. AH provided me with community at a time in my life when I felt utterly alone; an invaluable gift. Not to mention, everyone employed by Avalon HIlls has an incredible ability to be professional and respectful without compromising their individuality. The staff modeled positive relationships to food and their body, which was healing to witness, and reassured me I was safe and in good hands. Having a mix of people around aided in the process of neutralizing the fear, guilt, and shame I had been grappling with regarding having food and body image concerns in the form of a full blown eating disorder, as I was treated like a human being without being stigmatized by people who do not share these same struggles. Even though I was struggling with an eating disorder, the treatment team still made it a priority to listen to me and my requests and facilitate communication to the individual and the collective. I really benefited from the treatment, because it was tailored to my specific needs, and it empowered me to find and use my voice for the better. They challenged me when I needed it most and helped me distinguish when my eating disorder was present versus my wise mind. This tool of discernment I utilize on a daily basis in recovery, and it is woven into the fabric of treatment at Avalon Hills.
While at Avalon HIlls I had ample time to reflect on the past, dream of the future, and fully drop into the present moment. The program was designed extremely well to allow the client the time, space, and resources necessary to integrate their mental and physical awareness; another imperative aspect of recovery. It was by no means an easy process, and there was a lot of fear, but I was able to rest assured with trust in the process when I saw and felt how knowledgeable and experienced the staff were. The staff challenged, supported, listened, and empowered me, which were 4 of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.
Being at Avalon HIlls planted the seeds of returning to this field as a professional, because I felt first hand how powerful and integral this healing work truly is. I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for the opportunities that have opened up to me as I’ve embarked on the path of recovery. All of this is possible because of Avalon Hills and the work they do to provide top of the line care with a well-rounded approach. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on my experience at Avalon Hills and return to skills and tools that I acquired throughout my time there to aid me in daily life. I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better place than Paradise, Utah to return to what matters most - Life.
Billie, former adult patient