How We Are Different

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The Avalon Hills Eating Disorder Programs treats and assists adolescent females and adult women in overcoming the full range of eating disorders. We know that Eating Disorders can also occur alongside other issues, and we treat those too, including past trauma, if that has been a part of a person’s history. The Avalon Hills approach is client-driven, based on each individual’s needs.

From its inception in 2003, Avalon Hills has offered paths to recovery through providing new information, the development of new insights, and by providing new experiences that facilitate psychological growth. We help our clients develop new ways of thriving in their lives through a combination of the best, tried-and-true traditional psychotherapies and applied neuroscience, including the latest discoveries about human brain plasticity (described below).

While there are many components to treatment at Avalon Hills (see Treatment Components), we wish to emphasize a few aspects that distinguish our approach.

Clients at Avalon Hills will receive one of the most in-depth psychotherapeutic assessments available in the world. So many therapies today focus primarily on Eating Disorder symptoms. These are obviously very important. But Eating Disorders symptoms, while dangerous, are not the heart of the illness. They are attempts to deal with underlying problems, which may have gone undetected. Our assessments take more time, and go deeper, but save time in the long run.

One of the main approaches we use is in-depth, individualized psychotherapy, to help get to the bottom of the problem. The therapies we use make use of the best insights of traditional psychotherapy, and the latest discoveries about the brain, and how to change brain patterns. An important concept that underlines Avalon Hills treatment program is the recent discovery that the human brain is plastic, meaning that the brain structure is actually changeable and adaptable. So many people believe that they are stuck with the problems they have because that’s “just the way their brains work.”

The human brain is not, as it was long thought, like a “hardwired” electric machine that can’t be changed. Rather, it is “neuroplastic” and can grow and change in response to mental activity experience, and even interpersonal interactions. Even our most rigid behaviors are a product of the brain’s plasticity. Repeat a behavior over and over, and it will become stronger in the brain—because the brain is plastic in everyone. If this plasticity is understood, a client can use her mind to develop her brain in healthy ways. Whether it is through her individual psychotherapy, family therapy, neurofeedback, mindfulness, body image work, group therapy, animal therapy, or participating in our milieu, we are always working to help our residents understand that they can change in deep ways of their own choosing.

Each client has a primary therapist whose main job is to help her understand the underlying factors that caused her to turn to Eating Disorder behaviors, and then to address them directly. Once that happens, clients can begin to grow out of the need to restrict, binge or over-exercise. We also help clients to understand the competing forces in their minds, and help them to examine their defense mechanisms, to see which are working for them, and which are blocking healthy growth. This approach is called a “psychodynamic” approach, and it is one of our key therapies. We know that a client won’t leave Eating Disorder behaviors behind if we can’t give her something better, and help her grow and develop into the person she was meant to be.

And just as we believe in ongoing growth for our clients, we never stop our own growth, and have one of the most intensive continuing education programs in the country, with international experts, so that our staff is always as up to date as possible. At Avalon Hills we don’t buy the idea that being at the top of our game ever means that “our learning days are over.”