Treatment Components

Individual & Family Psychotherapy
Upon admission, clients are matched with a primary therapist who has training and experience in the treatment of eating disorders. Clients meet with their primary therapist 3 times weekly, for both individual and family sessions (most often conducted on the telephone) depending on need. Individual therapy sessions assist clients in exploring patterns and underlying meanings of her eating disordered behaviors and beliefs, help in developing insight into her needs and challenges, creating motivation and strategies for change and facilitate maintenance of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Unlike many other psychotherapies, that just focus on patterns that the client is consciously aware of, our therapists also help patients to learn about patterns they might not be aware of. As well, we focus not just on pointing out patterns, but on building new strengths, and rediscovering existing ones. We help each patient to understand herself not only as someone with an illness, but rather, to focus on what her life would look like if she was able to treat herself with love and respect, and aim for the highest, most meaningful life she can design.

Family work is as varied as the clients we treat. Family therapy targets the specific needs of the family system with the goal of facilitating a system that is supportive of long-term wellness. For adults, at times family work is done with a supportive other such as a spouse or friend.

Group Psychotherapy Process Group
Process-oriented groups are designed to provide a safe environment in which clients may share with others, and group work often provides a way for each client to learn about herself and hear feedback about her interpersonal patterns. The ideals of process group include honesty, empathy, self-awareness, mutual help and cooperation, non-judgment and appropriate assertiveness. Process groups engender a sense of hope, relationship building skills, belongingness, optimism and communication.

Body Image Group
Body Image Group focuses on supporting and challenging clients as they identify and practice small, incremental steps toward body acceptance through body remapping and desensitization. Over the course of this group, clients identify thoughts about their bodies that lead to suffering or ineffective behaviors and clients begin to critically examine the function of these behaviors related to their bodies and food. They also learn about the ineffectiveness of displacement of emotional concerns onto appearance and body image. This insight helps to normalize the relationship to the body.

Psycho-Educational Didactic Groups
Psycho-educational didactic groups are structured with stages of readiness in mind and are content-specific to some of the hallmark issues of recovery from eating disordered behaviors. Current classes include: Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPN), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness/Spirituality, and Recovery Maintenance. These classes are often very exciting and practical at the same time.

Our registered dietitians meet clients wherever they may be in their recovery process. In meeting with a dietitian several times per week, clients transition through an individualized program targeting their particular nutritional and recovery needs. Additionally, dietitians lead weekly nutrition groups, focused on teaching clients mindful eating skills, debunking nutritional myths and facilitating a healthy approach to achieving balanced eating.

Animal-Assisted Therapy
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is: "the use of animals to facilitate positive changes in a broad spectrum of therapeutic settings... to promote physical, emotional, cognitive, and social improvement for people with special needs" (Intermountain Therapy Animals of Northern Utah). Avalon Hills Eating Disorder Treatment Programs use three forms of AAT: (1) Animals in the therapeutic community (2) Equine skills; and (3) Equine Therapy Activities. Equine-assisted psychotherapy is a vital part of our programming. Additionally, clients spend time with the horses working on horsemanship skills.

Martial Arts Philosophy and Application
For many thousands of years, the profound psychological and physical benefits of martial arts training have been known. At Avalon Hills, the study of martial arts provides a structured process in which individuals can learn methods to focus and concentrate the mind. They can learn about how to stay calm and focused in situations that might otherwise be tense. Individuals also learn practical defensive techniques that help develop a deeper body awareness and unlock the physical potential that lies in each of us. This can be especially helpful for those clients who are “dissociated” from their bodies (meaning, they don’t sense their bodies accurately and don’t feel deeply connected to them).

Outdoor Experiences and Challenges
Outdoor exercises such as mountain excursions, hiking, canoeing, challenge courses, and skiing are designed to challenge individual limits and be present in the moment. Such exercises, both formal and informal, confront isolation, avoidance, perfectionism, self-consciousness and unproductive competition. At the same time, these activities enhance self-confidence and worth, positive social interactions, appropriate risk-taking and non-compulsive fitness activity. Outdoor experiences are individualized according to the client's health status, treatment level and ability.

Non-verbal Expressive Therapies
Individuals with eating disorders often have difficulty, or blocks, with direct verbal self-expression. Sometimes, it is helpful to find a way around that, by using less direct forms of therapy, such as through the use of art and various forms of movement, to encourage the management of emotional distress and the integration of new awareness and insight with new behaviors. Ultimately, these insights are woven into the more traditional individual talk therapies.

Exercise - Finding Balance
With the excessive focus eating disordered individuals place on body, weight, shape, and size, an effort to stay healthy and fit often morphs into compulsive, extreme and rigid exercise routines. In an effort to help clients combat related rigid mind-set and compulsive exercise behaviors, clients participate in non-routinized fitness activities that are both healthy and enjoyable, and which allow for sponteneity. Clients have some choices in determining the kinds of fitness activities in which they engage. Examples include hiking, and group sports such as basketball or wallyball. We also have more structured sports such as yoga, Zumba, aerobics, and strength training.

Sample Adult Program Weekly Schedule
Click on the thumbnail below to see a sample schedule.


One aspect of treatment that sets Avalon Hills apart from other programs is the therapeutic programming 7 days per week. Weekends are structured with a balance of outdoor recreation, cultural activities in the community, therapeutic activities such as Eat Out Challenges at local restaurants, and shopping challenges. Each weekend is different, based on the activities available in the local community as well as the client’s needs. Each Sunday, attendance at church services is available. Attendance is optional and the attendees rotate through a list of various denominations.

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