Kartini Visit!!

I had the most extraordinary experience this month. I had the opportunity to visit the Kartini Clinic in Portland, Oregon and spent two days there. I've admired the clinic and the director from afar since 2004, and it was an enormous pleasure and honor to meet the staff, tour the facilities, and meet families in care there.

I'm very interested in the varying cultures and approaches at different clinics. As harsh a critic as I am of ill-conceived and inadequate treatment I've come to see that there are several ways to intervene successfully and every new place I visit offers me insights into the possibilities. I'm particularly focused on how families are welcomed, educated, supported, and employed in the treatment process.

Kartini's clinic is unique, and I encourage everyone in the eating disorder world to learn more about them. In particular, I would point the field to the difference in how patients and their families are treated when the starting assumption is that the illness is biological in nature and neither chosen nor given. As a starting point this means families are treated as they would be with any grave childhood illness: with compassion, information, and an expectation that they will be working hard alongside the team and patient to bring about full recovery.

That last one is not a message that all clinics are willing to give, and not one some parents want to hear, but years of observing the field leave me unequivocally certain that this illness preys on anything less.

Many people hear me say that we can't blame the parents for the eating disorder but they stop there (often apoplectic with anger). Yet that message is meaningless without the second part: parents have to step up and act. It is our job to do some pretty challenging work, and for a long time. We have to put aside everything, including fear and enmity and past resentments, to do some Olympic parenting for a long time. No clinic can do this for us, and even the best clinic in the world can't make up for our failing to do our job. We have to find a specialist eating disorder clinic that will give us the tools to do our job while they do theirs.


  1. I've also "admired Kartini Clinic from afar" and am very intereted in learning about different clinics' approaches to treatment. What a neat experience to see it first hand!


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