Dr. J. Renae Norton became interested in the treatment of eating disorders while still in graduate school. Her primary areas of expertise during her doctoral training were family systems theory, and Neuro-psychology. She began her practice in 1985 after doing her residency in clinical psychology at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Over the years her reputation as the go to therapist for the toughest eating disorder cases has spread to other states and professionals around the country. Presently, she offers the only alternative to inpatient treatment in cases where the individual is suffering from a severe case of Anorexia, Bulimia or a combination of the two (often referred to as Bulimarexia).
Dr. Norton did her dissertation in 1985 comparing the identification and treatment of eating disorders from a Gestalt, Behavioral, Psychoanalytic, Neurophysiologic and Family Systems perspective. Her research convinced her that the traditional view of the causes of serious eating disorders, i.e. the overprotective mother along with the critical father, was a gross over- simplification for understanding such disorders. Her belief then and now is that you must treat the individual with an eating disorder taking into consideration all of the various systems that impact her, i.e. the family system, both her family of origin and her current living environment, the current status of her nutritional system, her support systems and emotional coping mechanisms, and at the macro-level, her interpretation of her culture.
“I think one of the reasons I have had so much success treating this population where others have failed, is that I don’t make any assumptions about my patients. I recognize that each person presents with a unique history and with a pattern of behaviors that, though part of a symptom complex, are never exactly the same.”
Another core belief is that traditional treatment approaches are sadly lacking in terms of successful outcomes because they tend to use a One-Size-Fits-All approach for those suffering from an eating disorder. Anorexia and related disorders (such as Bulimarexia) have a higher rate of mortality than any other psychological disorder.
In terms of in-patient care, the high failure rate is partly due to the pressure to reduce costs by limiting the length of stay, but also due to the tendency to use a cookie cutter approach to treatment, which, though less expensive, is also less effective. While the provider may profit more from a standardized approach, the research strongly suggests that it is not more cost-effective for the patient, who often pays an extraordinarily high price for inpatient treatment and usually returns several times, each time getting worse.
“From my point of view, this is simply unacceptable. We need a method of treatment for this population that is patient-centric, i.e. it needs to be focused on the individual and not the diagnosis. It must also be comprehensive enough to ensure that the gains made in treatment generalize to the patient’s life outside of treatment. Putting an individual in the hospital, who has control issues, and taking away her freedom of choice, only delays the inevitable, i.e. that she herself has to choose a healthy relationship with food in order to live a normal life. Likewise, making the right decision in a treatment facility where there are very few life stressors and minimal opportunities to make the wrong choices, does not prepare the patient for the realities of daily living when she returns home.”