I will share with an open heart our experience with Remuda Ranch Eating Disorder Clinic.
Our experience was not very positive. These are just some of the things I wish others had shared with us before we made our final decision. Had we know then what we know now, we would have brought our daughter to another place that would use a gentler therapy and more sensitive approach. I will only highlight our main concerns as 3 months of information would be excessive.
My daughter was 16 when she was admitted to Remuda Ranch. She struggled with anorexia. She was there for 3 months. Her case was considered “critical.” We were given all the paperwork to fill out before we came. We read the information. I asked a lot of questions on the phone before we finalized our decision. One of the questions I asked was “Do you use the Montreux – gentle approach with your clients.?” I was assured that did they did. The “gentle approach” is a very successful method of dealing with eating disorders that implements kindness, understanding, a lot of affirmative support and gentle words.
We dropped our daughter off July 4th, 2008. Within 48 hours we were at the Phoenix Airport ready to head back to Indiana. While waiting for our flight our daughter Alex called us crying and frantic.
“Mom, they have taken half of my clothes away. It is like a prison here. Please come get me! Please Mom, don’t leave me here! Please Mom, I beg you – I will eat food, I’ll do whatever you ask just don’t leave me here.”
For 20 minutes she begged, cried and pleaded that we wouldn’t leave and that we would return and take her home. I had to hang up because our flight was being called. I had to make empty promises and weak excuses. I felt a part of me die. We were very upset to receive such a call so soon after dropping her off. It left us devastated and confused. Apparently it is protocol to go through the girls clothes upon arrival and separate whatever is not on the dress code list. It was not done graciously or in love. Shorts that are too short, or tops that don’t have the proper sleeve length are removed. Yet – strange enough – bikinis are allowed. Apparently we overlooked this detail when reading the information they sent us. It traumatized our daughter and left us feeling helpless and as though we had made a horrible mistake.
A counselor was assigned to our daughter. He seemed to find delight in pointing out Alex’s weaknesses and faults. He seemed to find ways to discourage and dishearten her. When she would try to correct him if he had misunderstood her – he would become upset. There were some very good factors that he did bring out. He and the team were able to access some of the disfunctionality in our family. Things that we had never seen were exposed and we were very grateful to see this. Yet her counselor did not come across as a good listener or a gracious person. He seemed to enjoy intimidating Alex.
After a certain amount of time we were able to spend a weekend with Alex – with specific guidelines to help her eat in a healthy manner while away from the camp. When she came back her counselor once again seemed to find a way to beat her down, make her feel guilty and admonish her for not following the guidelines. We were with her. We took the time to explain that she in fact did follow the guidelines and we were very pleased with her sincere efforts. When we shared this with him during our phone counseling session he seemed to grumble some incoherent words. He liked control and was not happy when he didn’t have it – even with the parents. Anti-depressants were handed out. I was assured before we admitted her that they would never be pushed on her.
We believe that every other possible avenue of therapy should be used before someone – especially a young person – is administered anti-depressants. I have seen too many people and teens addicted to these and we certainly didn’t want our daughter to be another statistic. One afternoon Alex called us very upset.
“Mom, they are saying that I have to take anti-depressants. They said that everyone else is taking them and only me and another girl are not. Mom I don’t want to take them!”
Immediately I was on the phone with the head nurse. I was livid. I explained the situation and told her that I was promised this type of thing wouldn’t happen. She was caring and apologetic. After that they didn’t push Alex anymore about the drugs.
There were inconsistencies in the system. Alex had been preparing for a talent show before she left for Remuda and we asked if she could bring her guitar – a wonderful therapy and healthy outlet for anyone that is struggling with an eating disorder. She was told she couldn’t bring it – something about not having extra room for instruments. Yet when we were there for our week-long visit with her we saw another girl practicing on her violin. When I asked about the inconsistency of the rules they said that this girl had a competition coming up. It made no sense.
The program has some positive sides. It was informational – yet my daughter felt there was way too much emphasis on food – what anorexics and bulimics think about all the time anyways. She felt there should have been more positive outlets to get their minds off of food, charts, calories and diet plans. Working with abused animals, developing new hobbies or implementing other healthy alternatives would have benefitted in a tremendous way.
Alex often told us that several of the nurses were very stern. These girls are very delicate. One wrong word can drive them over the edge. A recent statistic put girls with eating disorders at the top of the suicide list in America. These girls beat themselves down for the least thing. They are broken people. The last thing they need is stern and militant nurses. These same nurses were often over-bearing, intimidating and demeaning. All nurses should be gentle and tender-hearted – or they shouldn’t be working in such a sensitive environment. On the day my daughter was finally scheduled to leave her counselor specifically told Alex to meet him at “The Cross” – a special place where prayer needs are posted and given over to the Lord. She waited. He never showed up. Everyone in her previous circle of friends had abandoned her. She came to Remuda believing that her counselor would be a man of his word, trustworthy. He deeply disappointed her. She left feeling de-valued by him.
If we knew then, what we know now we would never have sent her.
Since that time God has done a beautiful work in Alex’s life. She began working with abused animals and was able to get her mind off of her eating disorder and on those who needed her. She found a faithful friend that believed in her. She is now working on a 3,000 acre dude ranch. She gives riding lessons, brings clients out on trail rides, helps to take care of 200 horses and meets people from all over the world. God has completly healed her of Anorexia.
Alex’s dream? To one day open a ranch for girls that are post-eating disorder. They would be working with abused animals. She wants to call it Sunrise – because each new day gives us hope in Christ. It has taken a full 4 years for my daughter to recover from the trauma of Remuda.
For about a year she would have nightmares that she was still there. It was not all bad. There was good that came from it. It exposed the faults and problems that were in our family that we were not aware of. They gave us some good communication tools to better express our boundaries. Yet there are still times in a moment of fear Alex will say:
“Oh no, this is terrible. It feels like Remuda all over again.”