Dominion Hospital

Name of Hospital: Dominion Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Falls Church, VA, USA

Number of Stars: 3

Comment: I spent time at Dominion both as a day program patient and an inpatient patient. In the Reflections Eating Disorder Treatment Unit, I saw questionable treatment from the staff. One nurse made the comment that we were at fault for the medical conditions we developed, as we were being ” unkind” to our bodies. My therapist told me to ” get over and move on” my reluctance to work with my mother considering her role in my development of anorexia, without attempting to work it through with me and my mother, dismissing my feelings as well as my trauma.

One nutritionist ran a nutrition group who had never done it before and who dismissed people’s food fears, invalidated us, had no training or preparation, seemingly no experience working with ED patients, and suggested such triggering exercises that a patient angrily ran out of the room. Overall, there were some good groups that were helpful to many, but there was also a lot of downtime outside of group, more than necessary for a day program.

My experience inpatient was drastically worse. The common perception of patients in the adolescent unit was that they were ” ungrateful delinquents”. The problems I personally have with this statement are too many to list. Punishments that were supposed to be safety regulations for more at risk patients were used when patients broke rules. Though I brought this up to a therapist who said that that behavior was unethical and that she would speak about it to the staff, nothing changed. There were rules that were absolutely nonsensical and had absolutely no purpose in aiding or recovery, such as no contact with the opposite gender or people in different units, and an overly strict dress code. No dresses/skirts above the knee were allowed, and one girl was told that she had to change out of her leggings bc they were too form fitting ( they were ordinary leggings, she was just curvaceous).

In group therapy, family abuse from parents was discussed and treated as simple family disagreement which was partially the victim’s fault. There was still a lack of prioritization of care, as groups were very general, and family therapy was mandatory but one on one was optional. It gave the message that as long as these patients immediately weren’t a danger to themselves, even without solving problems or learning to cope, they would be thrust back to their families. There was a general indifference and callousness in the way the staff treated patients, with absolutely no empathy or understanding of mental illness. It was reminiscent of being herded in a zoo at times. One thing that made it better than at reflections was less restrictions on taboo topics, which allowed me to talk about issues I had. This was a need that was completely unmet at Reflections. Food was edible, but gross.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Day program and inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations i.e. race/gender/sexuality that could have influenced your stay?: Ableism was a big factor. I didn’t note any racism or sexism that wasn’t the garden variety kind that is ingrained into the practice of psychology, but in terms of race I am white passing and wouldn’t face discrimanation for the most part. Most people in the girls unit where I stayed at were LGBT, and there was trans boy in the boys unit. This was never really acknowledged beyond between patients. Heteronormativity was a factor, but it wasn’t really major. I don’t know how the trans boy was treated in the boys unit as I met him once and was allowed to talk to him unlike the other (cis) boys briefly, but for the most part I saw that staff treated him relatively the same and tried to use his pronouns, and was willing to be corrected if they mis gendered him. However, this is what I saw when observing one staff member rather than all.

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