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Gaining strength from an intensive group therapy option

Last Modified: August 30, 2023

Diseases & Disorders, Healthy Mind

group therapy

For Jodi Riley, 52, managing her mental well-being has been a decades-long battle. “My eating disorder started when I was a teenager, about 14 years old. I have been on disability basically my whole adult life for mental health,” she said. “It’s just been a struggle to keep well enough, and not be obsessed with the numbers on the scale and behaviors that go with eating disorders. I’ve been in and out of all sorts of programs and hospitals. It’s been a long haul.” But 2 ½ years ago, she learned of an option that brought new hope.

“I was really struggling with my eating disorder,” Jodi said, “and it had always been hard to find treatment that took my insurance. It wasn’t that I didn’t want help–I knew I needed it. It was starting to affect my health. But it was looking like I was going to need to go out of state for treatment, and I was frustrated. Then a friend of mine who was seeing a therapist at Park Center told me they’d started an Eating Disorder IOP, so I did an assessment and started the program. Everything fell into place in that respect.”

A shared struggle

Parkview's Eating Disorder Program offers an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for adults in need of more frequent support than typical outpatient services. “There were six to eight of us. We met three days a week for three hours over 12 weeks,” Joni said. “And it was over lunch, so we had a meal together, which was really helpful.”

Participants gain skills and coping strategies, get interactive opportunities, such as art therapy, psychodrama and embodied movement, practice a variety of evidence-based therapies, and benefit from support and encouragement from others in the group.

“Eating disorders don’t discriminate. They can affect anyone, at any weight, any gender, any race, any age. With the IOP, there was a diverse group, “Jodi said. “I always felt alone in my eating disorder, so just being with people who understood and sharing meals, which can be really difficult, was the beauty of the program for me.”

Toward the end of the 12 weeks, Jodi truly started seeing progress. “Change didn’t come quickly, but eventually, something just clicked. I found my core self. It really comes down to your ‘whys.’ You have to figure out why you're doing it and, in my case, it was my dog, my best friend, and my nieces and nephews. I realized I have to be healthy for these people and this animal.”

Jodi graduated from the Eating Disorders IOP and did less intensive outpatient therapy for some time. Recently, realizing she was in a place of needing more support, she returned to the group format. “It was just good to know the help was there when I needed it.”

Jodi also pursued therapy through the Women’s Trauma IOP and one-on-one therapy, which many IOP participants do. They often choose to combine individual therapy or nutrition therapy with the benefits of the group format. “My therapist, Caroline Braun [MSW, LCSW, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute clinical programs manager, Park Center – IOP] is amazing,” Jodi said. “She's incredibly patient with me and I've made a lot of gains with her. We try to make the individual therapy complement the IOP. If something comes up in the group, I take it to Caroline and process it more, which has been helpful.”

Acceptance and progress

Jodi knows that managing her mental and physical well-being is not a temporary commitment. “I’ve come to the realization that my eating disorder won’t completely go away,” she said. “But I can lead a full and happy life.”

She keeps her whys top of mind through journaling and one special mealtime accessory. “I made a placemat with pictures of my nieces and nephews, my friend and my dog, so that when I’m eating, I can see these reminders of why I’m doing it.”

As for sharing where she’s at in her journey and how far she’s come, Jodi’s intention is simply to encourage others to pursue the resources they might need. “My hope is that I can help someone else. There are other IOPs that are equally as helpful for people with different needs. And really, what do you have to lose? With eating disorders, for example, they only take, they don’t give you anything. So, what does it hurt to try? You always have choices.”

Learn more

Call the Parkview Behavioral Health Institute at 260-481-2700 to schedule an initial appointment and request an eating disorder assessment or visit us online here to learn more about our Intensive Outpatient Programs.



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