Search This Blog

Friday 4 October 2013

Guest Blog: Second Opinion - Sheppard Pratt

If you are a regular reader of Charlotte’s blog, you have probably read my daughter’s account of her stay at Sheppard Pratt (posted Sunday 9/29). Everything she said regarding her treatment is true. If you didn’t gain the required weight each day, you were punishe. Punishment included taking away visitation from family and friends and contact with the outside world was limited to a phone call. You were constantly watched even when showering and using the toilet and you were not allowed to flush. That is supposedly to prevent Bulimics from purging and getting away with it. It doesn’t take into consideration that refeeding can speed up an Anorexic’s metabolism, which hinders daily weight gain.

Why such harsh treatment, particularly for a young girl? Sheppard Pratt’s answer for treatment is to throw all patients together regardless of age, sex and diagnosis and have the rules for one demographic apply to all. It is a cookie cutter approach that does not address each patient’s needs and is punitive if not Draconian. It is essentially a medical prison population. We later learned from other patients and their families that the relapse rate was high and that a revolving door existed for many. I’m convinced it is because of Sheppard Pratt’s “sink or swim” and “my way or the highway” mode of practice. Interestingly enough, this works out in SP’s favor because the money continues to pour in from returning patients. It is the same mentality behind manufacturing products we purchase with a limited shelf life. Limited shelf life means repeat buyers.

Our intention was for her to be treated as an outpatient only but the Admissions Director literally railroaded us into an inpatient stay behind locked doors. She told us that only 1 bed was left and that we had to make a decision now to admit her or risk losing a spot. A few days after she was admitted, we soon discovered that many empty beds were available. My wife and I are convinced that SP pushed to admit our daughter because she had the best health coverage (PPO plan in US) available and that the bean counters were salivating at such a quality admission. I don’t remember the exact number but the insurance paid out a five figure sum for her stay. It was a lot of money.  Sheppard Pratt is a business and is all about filling beds and making money and generating repeat business.

To make matters worse, admitting your minor child to SP constituted loss of legal rights as parents. Once we signed the paperwork, SP seized control of our daughter and were not going to relinquish it until she had stayed long enough to their satisfaction. Let our lesson be a warning to all: DO NOT SIGN OR COMMITT TO ANYTHING WITHOUT GETTING A SECOND OPINION. Institutions like SP prey upon parents’ lack of knowledge regarding the law and their rights.

In Sheppard Pratt’s defense, they did get our daughter back to a healthy weight. However, the harsh manner in which they accomplished this task left our child more traumatized than before she began treatment. Since leaving Sheppard Pratt, she suffers from serious anxiety and has trust issues, especially with mental health professionals. Despite our promise to NEVER put her into a place like SP again, she is still angry and resentful and forgiveness comes slow. Sadly, because of SP I don’t know if we will ever completely regain our daughter’s trust and for a parent, that is heartbreaking.

If we knew then what we know now about ED treatment options, we would have NEVER considered Sheppard Pratt. If you have a child that needs help, Sheppard Pratt should be your last option. So many better options like FBT exist that address the ED without treating the patient like a guilty prisoner. If you or anyone you know is considering Sheppard Pratt for ED care, my recommendation is to run away as fast as you can.

(**For further advice about Eating Disorders, Treatment Providers and peer to peer support, please visit or***)


  1. I know you probably don't want to hear this, but they are doing what is needed. My daughter was in a residential facility and it was very similar. they had no access to their phones or computers ever. all bathrooms are monitored, they are strip searched so they can not being in food, tools to self harm etc. When a child is seriously sick, this is what they need. Its not pleasant, but nothing about ED is. My daughter was at a facility like this for 4 months, and she credits it with sav ing her life. They may have lied about the bed, but it could have been possibly because your daughter needed that level of care and they didn't want her to leave. We have good insurance, and in the beginning we felt like you did, but they honestly are doing what your child needs.

  2. Anonymous. Eating disorders are not a choice. They are a biological brain disorder. To punish someone for something that is not their fault can cause untold psychological damage for a long time. There are many ways of refeeding a patient to physical health. Cruelty should NEVER be an option.

  3. I always ask people to think about choosing a non-profit facility if that is an option. I agree, that cruelty is not ever needed. Yes, one must be a brick wall about re-feeding, but one can definitely be a loving, compassionate brick wall. I am so sorry for your experience.

  4. i am living in the midst of anorexia and fighting like hell with very little help and i will die before i enter a hospital again for this for many reasons.

    i can promise Anonymous that having anorexia is a mental prison and i need none of my shoelaces, Ereader, and any gentle music i can stand to listen to right now taken away, let alone my things gone through multiple times once i'm settled down and feeling calm to begin eating so much more. i feel guilty and bad enough. It does that, you know. Nobody needs to help those feelings along. Every single damn thing about anorexia twists and turns the precious things into shit in the sufferer's mind. It's apparent SP has no comprehension of this FACT. i am certain there will be work to be done in a therapy room at the right time and place but being whipped like a horse at the Derby just was NOT helping me at all and only served to make me feel worse, not comforted. Love works, punishment doesn't.

    To the OP- i've overcome quite a lot with my Mum who i love so very much. i'm so sorry that you have experienced any of this. Your daughter can heal from the trust issues though, i promise. My Mum is the key reason i keep fighting. Please hang in there and thank you for sharing your experience.


    1. Where in my post did I say an ED is a choice? My daughter has suffered for 8 years with her ED and it nearly destroyed her. We tried to get her help many times and nothing worked. When she finally entered a residential treatment facility like the one you mentioned is when she finally was able to get better. She hated it the first 3-4 weeks, but once she started eating on a regular basis and started working on the therapy is when she got better. It has been 8 long months for her and she is still working at it, but each day her ED gets less and less. She says the treatment center and her team saved her life. i don't think she would have lived another year without the center. Were there things she hated about being there, yes, Did she feel like she was treated like a baby, yes. Most of the things they do are to protect you. I am sorry you had a bad experience but don't give up on all treatment centers, there are good ones out there. I do agree that many of the higher ups are in it for the money, but most of the staff really do care.

  5. I suffered from purging anorexia for twenty years. I am now in my early 30s. I have been inpatient well over 15 times, been to residentials, PHP programs..etc. I understand how parents must believe the treatment is ungodly and inhumane, especially when the stories are so out of touch with anything they, themselves, have gone through. I read through all of the posts and comments on this site about Shepard Pratt, waiting to read something that would make me cringe. Not one thing did. While I absolutely hate inpatient treatment, and it is one of the big reasons I never want to use my ed again, it saves lives. I am not sure if parents realize how out of control the ed will get once the patient realizes someone is going to try and "take it away." The behavior that children, teens, and adults exhibit when they are inpatient for severe eds is unlike anything anyone has witnessed in the "real world." Part of the ed is to grab onto a person and not let go, whatever the cost. This is demonstrated by the outrageous lying and hiding of behaviors. If inpatient treatment was anything less than what has been described about SP on this site, lives would be in danger. If tx gives an ed patient an inch, they will abuse it. I am sure people think, not my daughter...yes your daughter. It is not your daughter that turns into a (not using this word lightly) a monster in inpatient tx, it is their ed. The absolute only way to ensure your daughter survives herself when she is so sick and on a unknowing death-mission, is to make it impossible for her to do more damage to her body. Inpatient tx is not about healing the brain, it is about getting the body to a point where it is no longer dying, protecting the patient from themselves and forcing patients to go for a period of time with no behaviors. It is hell, it lacks compassion and it is little to zero privacy. It can feel traumatic and the patient will probably have memories of it for the rest of their life. Once a family and the patient realizesthe patient was so sick that they needed to be hospitalized, they will fully understand how devastating the alternative is. It has been said an ed is not a choice, I wholeheartedly agree. Having an ed is not a choice, but when a patient gets strong enough physically and mentally, using their ed will become a choice. This "horrible" "inhumane" tx that everyone describes is the first step down a very long road to one day having that choice. And that choice feels like freedom. At one point I entered tx so sick that I was refusing the potassium the nurses were trying to give me because I thought dying was a better option than living a life of hell with an eating disorder; there was not one ounce of me that thought I would ever be able to eat again, let alone recover. My doctor screamed at me - actually screamed at me - told me there was no way I was going to die under her care, and if I wanted to refuse tx and kill myself then she would ship me off to the room where they keep the body bags. I thought she was insane, and yet it was the first time I realized how much of a death-grip the ed had on me and the depths it was going to go to in order to stay attached. Taking those pills has been the hardest part of treatment that I've ever gone through - knowing the hell that sat before me if I actually tried to fight. Every step of treatment along the way has been miserable and painful, and I am so grateful for every single part of it and the men and women who worked so incredibly hard to protect me from myself. As a kid and a young teen, I never imagined my ed would be something that would become so dark, and I am positive my parents never did either. Treatment saved my life time and time again until I was able to save my own. There is nothing inhumane about taking drastic measure to protect someone from behaviors that have the potential to kill them. There is nothing inhumane about saving someone's life.