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Tools and Information for Individuals in Recovery from Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating
rainbow in the desert

September 15, 2015 by Diane Ryan

Partial Hospitalization (PHP)

Myths, Misconceptions and the Mirasol Alternative

If you've ever considered residential eating disorder treatment, your dietitian or therapist may have recommended something called "PHP" or "partial hospitalization".

Mirasol, like many other treatment centers, offers a "partial hospitalization" program, but the name is misleading, and there are a lot of misconceptions about the nature and purpose of the program.

For starters, "partial hospitalization" doesn't mean you'll spend part of the time in a hospital. On the contrary, you'll be living at home or in a comfortable residence with other Mirasol clients!

Mirasol PHP

A few photos of one of Mirasol's PHP residences

PHP is often described as a "day" program, but most PHPs actually offer both day and evening programming. It's just that there are fewer hours of individual and group therapy, and more free time to study, work, volunteer in the community, or attend off-site meetings.

In PHP, the focus of therapy shifts from analysis and discovery to development of practical skills that will help you live in the world after treatment without an eating disorder. PHP is often recommended for clients as a step-down from full-time residential treatment, or to provide additional support for clients already in recovery.

It's the bridge between living in a safe environment and doing the deep core work required at the residential level.

Small is Beautiful (and Baffling)

Mirasol's PHP is very small — never more than six clients in any residence — so treatment plans are highly individualized and adjusted on an almost daily basis to balance the need for support and independence.

No one's program here looks the same. Some clients need more individual sessions with their primary therapist, while for others we may supplement those sessions with Reiki, polarity therapy, EMDR or TRE.

There's an average of two process groups a day, with a strong focus on tool and skill development and coping skills through cognitive behavioral therapy, belief work, mindfulness and meditation as well as dialectical behavior therapy, supported by weekly art therapy body image and spirituality groups.

Compulsive Exercise: Eating Disorder's Evil Twin

Many clients have an unhealthy relationship with exercise as well as an unhealthy relationship with food. For example, 90% of bulimics exercise to compensate for episodes of binge eating.

Developing a healthy relationship with exercise is a very important part of the PHP program. With staff support, clients learn to exercise appropriately, to cope with the feelings that come up when they can't exercise, and to make sure that they're exercising for the right reasons.

Most clients will attend two yoga classes per week, trips to the gym and circus arts. We also offer — weather permitting —hiking and gentle walks in the desert.

Keeping It Real in the Kitchen

Of course one of the biggest challenges of transitioning to life after residential treatment is making sure each client has the tools she needs to plan and prepare healthy meals.

Our dietitians meet weekly with clients to work out a menu plan for the week. They also accompany the clients on weekly grocery shopping outings to reinforce their healthy food choices and provide assistance with label-reading.

At weekly cooking classes, Mirasol chefs teach basic cooking skills, including tips on prep work and knife skills. There's a video on our web site.

"Opportunities to Be Uncomfortable"

The individualization and fluidity of the program are its greatest strengths, but may also be a source of frustration for some clients.

In residential treatment, the daily schedule is filled with individual and group therapy sessions, scheduled meals and snacks and recreational activities. Clients are supervised 24/7 to reduce eating disorder cues and triggers, and access to other medicators is severely restricted. In PHP, on the other hand, the daily schedule is deliberately salted with unstructured time and opportunities for clients to make their own choices, including how they'll cope effectively with periods of boredom, indecision, frustration and anxiety.

The ultimate goal is to provide you with opportunities to practice the skills and tools you learned in treatment, with the support of clinical staff and your peers, in an environment as close to real life as possible. There's a sample program schedule on Mirasol's web site at PHP Day Program Schedule.

If you'd like to learn more about Mirasol's PHP program, speak with one of our counselors by calling 888-520-1700 or visit mirasol.net.

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