Avalon Hills - Paradise
Avalon IS different than other treatment centers - yes, they all have similar aspects, rules, and structure that often cloud your judgment about treatment - but there is something different about Avalon. The neurofeedback program is wonderful, I use the tools and skills daily! You get out of neuro what you put into it - so push yourself, do the hard things, try again and again, it is so worth it.
While I was there, I had a lot of irritation at the daily life in treatment, bathroom monitoring, food/table rules, staff inconsistencies, but the thing is, I had the same irritation at the cookie-cutter place I was at before Avalon. And I ended up at Avalon less than six months after completing the cookie-cutter program.
The biggest difference, other than neuro, is how patiently the staff push your limits, be that on what you’re working on in therapy, your food rules, or even expanding your horizons with activities and possibilities. I got comfortable with the cookie-cutter place, but Avalon felt like home - a safe place to learn and grow.
I did not “graduate,” insurance cut and I had to choose between continuing residential and losing the job that I love. I felt the 3 months I spent at Avalon prepared me better than I expected, better than I hoped, for maintaining recovery in my day-to-day life. Yeah, I still have rough days and sometimes I use behaviors, but I now have the resources and skills to stand back up after I trip and fall, and instead of my outpatient team being helpless in watching me slide off the ED-cliff again, they are able to provide adequate support in an outpatient setting to allow me to continue my recovery while living my new life.
I remember telling a clinician about some behaviors I had engaged in, feeling the shame welling up, until I looked up at her, she calmly asked me about precipitating factors, helped me make a plan for what to do *when* this happens again, and moved on. She didn’t shame me, she didn’t “punish” me, she built me up and taught me how to fight back. That conversation has given me so much confidence in my ability to maintain recovery! And it’s not just this one staff member. EVERY staff member - from direct care, neuro techs, therapists and dietitians, to administrative, culinary, and maintenance staff - had an impact on my experience at Avalon, and I wouldn’t be in the (good) place I’m in without them. (Aaaand, the ladies who endured that time with me were pretty amazing themselves - and I miss them daily!)
In comparing Avalon to the "cookie cutter" program I was in prior to Avalon, I found Avalon's medical support (psychiatry, medical [MD/ARNP], nursing) to be far superior and responsive, medical staff seem to have more training and understanding in both basic ED treatment and the physiological effects of EDs, refeeding, etc. I did feel more like I was "subject to" medical care than a part of a care team, which I am used to as an outpatient, AND I see the benefit of their methods in retrospect.
While I was at Avalon, there was a fair amount of turnover in the culinary staff, which resulted in some less than ideal eating opportunities, which were miserable at the moment, and in retrospect were extremely helpful in opening my availability to new foods. The "cookie cutter" program I'd been at before did a much better job of managing my food sensitivities, mainly in that the dietitian reviewed every ingredient label before I was "allowed" to eat that food; Avalon's higher census (4x the number of patients at one time), multiple dietary staff, and real-life food scenarios made this less of an option. This applies to my food sensitivities, NOT allergies - which were ALWAYS checked and verified (both mine and those of others). The direct care staff at Avalon spent a fair amount of time on their phones, which were also used for charting, but they were more willing to take time with individual clients, and the maturity level of the staff at Avalon was MUCH higher than that of the staff at the "cookie cutter" facility I was at previously. Several reviews in other places mention that programming was light, inconsistent, or inadequate, which I initially would agree with, but what I realize, almost a year after coming home, is that light level of structure within the tight structure of treatment actually allowed me to practice being home - I have a lot of time to determine what I can do with my time, a lot of time to just sit with my thoughts - and had I not had that opportunity at Avalon, I would likely not be in the good place I am now - I'd use that time less appropriately. The groups at the previous treatment facility were often lead by untrained, undereducated staff, whereas Avalon groups were usually lead by clinicians or staff whose role was exclusive to that subject matter.
Like with any learning opportunity, you get out of treatment what you put into it, for the most part. I worked HARD while I was at Avalon, and I was well-rewarded. I am fairly confident that the season I spent at Avalon will be my last round of residential treatment ever, but if I'm mistaken in that, I will return to Avalon - but this time be ready to make the decision to stay and graduate from their programming instead of leaving when insurance cuts out or when my job begs for me to return.