August 13, 2008 Marion MacDonald

Helping Families Learn to Love Each Other Again

Mirasol's adolescent eating disorder treatment program includes a five-day "family camp" where key family members come to Mirasol to experience residential treatment with their sisters and daughters. In this podcast, Family Program Facilitator Jerry Harmon describes how he works with families to help them transform they way they communicate.

"My role is facilitating what we call "list work", where the goal is to provide a forum where each family really hears the others. I try to educate them that it's not about agreeing, that when you hear the other person's reality, it may be totally different than yours. Each client shares with the family the story of her eating disorder. A lot of it comes out the work they do in groups here. They're really encouraged that this is their opportunity to provide their family with some understanding of what's been going on for them internally. It also allows them to dispel all their secrets also, if they're willing to do that, so that when they leave here, there are no more secrets to protect. The whole family now is on the same page. Whether they agree or not isn't important, it's that everybody has the same information."

"I spend a lot of time working with the families on their emotions, how to express their emotions to each other, how to be with each other emotionally, and also how to communicate. Over the years what I've found is that, family members, as much fighting and as much hurt and pain and fear there is, and as much as they may have pulled away from each other, what they really want is to find a way to love each other again."

"A good friend of mine taught me that hurt people, hurt people. So part of my job is to teach the family that the daughter is not the identified patient here, and that the eating disorder has affected the entire family. I think most families get that, and once they get that, then they can begin to make changes."