Man being comforted in person-first treatment

What Does Person-First Treatment Mean?

Understanding Person-First Treatment

Have you heard this phrase before, “person-first treatment” or even “person-first language,” and been confused by what it meant? Many treatment centers will claim to be person-first. But perhaps never explain its purpose and why it should matter to you. Let us explain.

Person-first treatment is rooted in this truth: you are so much more than what’s going wrong in your world. You are not a disorder, not a diagnosis, not a problem, not dirty, weak or any other hurtful identifier that has been thrown your way. Beyond refusing to identify you in these harmful ways, person-first treatment recognizes that no two challenges are the same. And that each person who enters treatment has taken their own—often winding—road here.

That’s exactly why person-first treatment is at the heart of everything we do at The Ranch Tennessee. But what does that mean exactly? 

Person-First Treatment Built for Your Future

The discussion around what treatment means is often quite clearly delineated between schools of thought. What happens before treatment and what you need to do after. So what happens during treatment? The experience of treatment itself is a formative part of the recovery. Awareness and the lifelong relationship we have with the pasts we’re trying to leave behind is part of the process. 

Our past belongs in the past, but we need to acknowledge it for our future, though. And to guarantee that we can find a way to do that, treatment can’t just treat what’s going wrong. Instead, you’ll need a holistic look into the entirety of your life to create meaningful relationships with the future you want to create.

Wholeness is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

At the center of breaking down the meaning of “person-first” is the very opposite of breaking down: it’s wholeness. To put the therapeutic process at the center of healing means to look at the whole person when considering the methods and theories that will inform a treatment journey. 

Person-First Treatment From a Client’s Perspective

Imagine you’ve made the brave decision to attend treatment for the first time. You’ve shared that the reason you’re coming in is in regard to a suspected eating disorder, that you’ve never been to therapy but are considering a residential program.

It’s clear what you need, right? Your quick bio should give them all the information necessary to create a treatment plan that will help you get back to feeling your best. Then you have your intake interview.

During it, you feel comfortable enough to share that you’ve been married for five years but struggle with confidence and have no sexual desire. In a moment of bravery, you admit that your self-confidence has been further shaken by infidelity, and after a long stint concerning drinking behavior, you became sober last year. As you recall the story of your life, you recognize that in becoming sober, that’s when the control of food urges began. 

In light of your discovery, imagine that your treatment center wants to continue with treatment-as-usual, fitting you into the cookie-cutter template they use for everyone. But you’re not just anyone; you’re you.

Your clinician didn’t just meet an eating disorder. They met an entire person with a life. You brought your history, emotions and potential to that first meeting and laid it in their hands. 

Now, it’s the job of your treatment team to bring all of these things together to help support a healing relationship that’s sustainable and fulfilling. So you can target the eating disorder, your needs as a whole person need to be met in a responsive and compassionate way. 

This is what person-first treatment means. 

Let’s spend some time looking at how these experiences are shaped across the lives we touch and the conditions we support at The Ranch Tennessee. 


Addiction isn’t a condition to be cured, but it can be managed. Thinking of recovery as a lifelong process is at the center of developing those early steps into recovery. Whether your journey begins with a residential experience or an outpatient commitment, the foundation of your next steps begins with the first one you take. 

In addiction recovery, your experience will be built on the concrete support of evidence-based research that addiction changes your brain’s chemistry. We will also take a holistic approach that empowers you with education about your body. From how your body detoxes to the systems in play as you establish who you are as a sober individual.

Person-first addiction treatment will bring sharp clarity to the spaces substances may have been trying to numb. From unresolved trauma to current relationships with family members, we will ensure you do not feel alone or unaided in addressing the things that exist in your life alongside your addiction. From compassion to cravings, we will address every aspect of you and the life you live alongside your addiction. 

Eating Disorder 

Let’s revisit the idea we imagined above about our client with the eating disorder and look at the ways we approach person-first treatment when eating is at the center of our struggle. 

Food is a vital part of every day. For many, it is also at the center of a number of social experiences and occasions. For this reason, a lens focused on the experiences that cue the disordered behavior and corresponding emotions must be just as prominent as the relationship with food. We center the feeling of home and serenity in every variation of eating disorder treatment at The Ranch Tennessee. 

Alongside the support for food and eating behaviors, eating disorder treatment will thrive when we also support experiences outside of food like equine therapy or rebranding social experiences away from the focus on eating. In treatment, we focus on building relationships that are fulfilling. Not just with your body and the way you nourish it but also with the way we explore your past and your future. 


“Process addiction” can refer to many things as a catchall term. When we find something that makes us feel good, or there’s a hobby we’re really good at, it can move from a coping tool toward something more insidious. These habits and hobbies can become addictions that need to be treated. But when there’s passion involved, it’s not that simple. 

From video games and gambling to overworking, many “good” things aren’t always good for us. But the lion’s share of process addictions deals with relationships and sex. 

Sex and Love

When your relationships go awry, it can be difficult to get a grip on the way we move through the world. We are social creatures, and the human experience thrives on connection. 

Disordered functions in the spaces we use to connect are difficult to separate from the other parts of our life, especially romance. Sex, love and relationships can become addictions when we don’t develop a healthy relationship with ourselves first.

For this reason, person-first therapies are incredibly beneficial in navigating the process alongside a holistic approach to recovery. These therapies may look like mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapy that reprograms the thinking that led to disordered love styles. 

Mental Health

When your moods are unpredictable, or you feel your emotions are out of control, your mental health needs may steal focus from the rest of your life. We offer a series of mental-health-focused programs at The Ranch Tennessee. Each centers on a different treatment to respond to what you need as an individual. 

Seeking person-first mental health treatment in a multidisciplinary center like ours gives you space to explore your holistic journey. This approach ensures that you are able to access not just the treatment you need but the kind of treatment that you want as well. 

From depression and anxiety to complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), each mood disorder will require a different blend of therapeutic approaches to address them. We will not simply look at symptoms and impacts. Alongside those things, we will consider the root of your mental health struggles. And the potential areas you can develop and flourish. Healing comes once you live a life where mood disorders are a part of you instead of overshadowing your ability to move forward. 

Whether you’re self-medicating with food, substances or just suffering in silence from the weight of your mental health struggles, there’s space to explore the foundation of where things began to feel too much. In those places, we can explore group or individual experiential therapies that can establish a new emotional equilibrium for a thriving life. 

This life is your story. From the first breath to the last step, and every part of you matters in your treatment journey. We are not treating a textbook or solving a problem. You are a whole person. And at every step of your journey, we center your experiences and emotions to align with your healing. That’s our promise to you. 

Call us today at (888) 969-7903 to get started.

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