If you or a loved one are in need of eating disorder treatment, you should consult with a mental health professional to decide what type of treatment will be most effective for you. It may be helpful for you to have an understanding of the different options available before you contact a treatment center. Here is an overview of the different levels of care, as well as specific therapies often used in eating disorder treatment.
To schedule an assessment that will determine the best treatment approach for you or a loved one, call Seeds of Hope at (610) 644-6464.
Table of Contents
- Levels of Care for Eating Disorder Treatment
- Therapies Used in Eating Disorder Treatment
- How to Choose a Treatment Center
Levels of Care for Eating Disorder Treatment
A term you may hear mental health professionals use is “level of care.” Level of care refers to how much support you need in treatment. There are five levels of care available: inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient.
The levels are organized according to need, but that doesn’t mean that you must go through every level in order. Each person’s recovery journey is unique. You may move between different levels of care at different times. Read on to learn more about each level of care and see which one may be right for you.
Inpatient treatment is the highest level of care. It involves 24-hour supervision in a hospital setting, complete with medical monitoring and weight restoration. This means that you will have doctors monitoring your physical health at all times and working to restore your weight to a healthy level. Additionally, inpatient hospitalization involves psychiatric care. You will likely participate in therapy sessions and have access to an on-staff psychiatrist.
Inpatient treatment is typically recommended for individuals who are suffering from dangerous physical effects like electrolyte imbalances. It is also appropriate for people who are at risk of self-harm or suicide, or those who are not fully benefiting from a lower level of care.
Length of stay in an inpatient program varies. It is generally shorter than any of the other programs. This is because inpatient is often a temporary measure to stabilize the individual. Much of the recovery work happens in the lower levels of care.
Residential treatment is often confused with inpatient, since they both involve an extended stay at a treatment center. However, there are some key differences. Unlike the inpatient hospital setting, residential facilities are designed to be home-like and comfortable. They often contain bedrooms and living areas where clients can have downtime.
Additionally, the focus of residential treatment shifts from medical stabilization to psychological healing. In residential treatment, you will have a structured program that incorporates a variety of therapies.
Residential treatment usually lasts longer than inpatient. Length of stay varies on your individual needs, but it could be several months or more.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
A partial hospitalization program is often the next step for someone completing an inpatient or residential program. However, it can also be used to prevent the need for a higher level of care. PHP offers a structured, intense treatment program that typically runs for six hours each day, five days a week.
While in PHP, you will have access to many of the same services that residential programs offer. The main difference with PHP is that you return home at night. It’s important for clients to have appropriate support at home while they are enrolled in this program.
PHP program length also varies depending on the individual’s needs. You will collaborate with your treatment team to determine length of stay and treatment goals.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is designed for people who are still struggling with eating disorder symptoms but do not require the intense support of a higher level of care.
IOP is one of the most flexible programs because it runs for just nine hours per week. This time is usually divided into four days with two hour and fifteen-minute sessions each day. Many treatment centers offer both daytime and evening appointments so that you can maintain your daily routine while receiving the treatment you need.
Outpatient therapy is the lowest level of care. It is often used to maintain recovery after completing other levels of care, but it can also be recommended for someone before trying a higher level of care. A lot of outpatient programs consist of weekly group sessions. These groups are conducted with peers in recovery and provide you with a support system.
Outpatient is generally a long-term care solution. You may continue attending outpatient sessions for many years, much as you would visit a primary care provider. Recovery is a lifelong process. Outpatient groups help you maintain your recovery.
Therapies Used in Eating Disorder Treatment
Here is an overview of the types of treatments commonly used in eating disorder programs. Your treatment plan will likely include a variety of these therapies.
Group therapy is a major component of most treatment programs. It involves meeting with a group of your peers and discussing recovery topics with the guidance of one or more clinicians. The group setting provides vital peer support.
In addition to group therapy sessions, you will have time to meet with your therapist one-on-one to learn additional recovery skills and discuss your treatment progress.
Family therapy sessions involve you and a member of your family or support network. The purpose of these sessions is to educate relatives on how they can effectively support you in recovery. This type of therapy also explores how the eating disorder has affected the rest of the family members, and how the home environment may be contributing to eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used to treat a range of mental health conditions, including eating disorders. This therapeutic approach uses the connection between thoughts and behaviors to help you develop healthier habits. Through CBT exercises, you will identify negative thought patterns and challenge them. You will also learn healthy coping mechanisms for strong emotions.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavior therapy is a modified version of cognitive behavioral therapy that was originally developed for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. DBT is also highly effective for treating people with eating disorders and other mental health conditions. Clients are educated in four areas – mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation.
This therapy is often short-term. The therapist takes the role of a listener while discussing the client’s need to change and reasons for changing. The purpose of motivational interviewing is to help you commit fully to your treatment plan.
The idea behind narrative therapy is to “rewrite” your own story so that you can live the life you want. This type of therapy focuses on differentiating you from your problems. It helps you identify your positive traits and abilities so you can use them to cope with life’s challenges.
Creative Arts Therapies
Creative arts therapies include many different methods of expression such as visual art and music. Clients actively participate in creating or experiencing forms of art. There are many benefits to this alternative therapy, including stress relief, improved self-esteem, and improved self-expression. Examples include music therapy and art therapy.
Therapy animals are often used in eating disorder treatment programs. Animal-assisted therapy taps into our connection to animals to provide stress relief, improved mood and self-esteem, and other psychological benefits. You may interact with many different types of animals, including horses (equine therapy).
We see recovery as a multi-dimensional challenge that requires support for body, mind and spirit. Holistic practitioners offer groups that introduce alternative/complementary healing modalities that address these dimensions. Many of the group topics address ways that clients can create an internal “safe space” from which to navigate the challenges of recovery. Clients have the opportunity to learn about and practice these during the groups. Holistic therapies may include trauma-sensitive yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices, acupuncture, reiki, and aromatherapy.
If you are prescribed psychiatric medications, you will check in with a psychiatrist periodically to see if your medication is still working effectively or if it needs to be adjusted.
Nutrition Education and Support
Nutrition education is a vital component of treatment. It teaches you about your nutritional needs, healthy eating patterns, and how to prepare balanced meals. Along with education, you will receive support from clinicians during meals.
Many treatment programs involve a group meal where you eat with your peers and treatment team. Afterwards, you may participate in a process group or journaling so you can explore the emotions that came up during and after the meal. Some programs may even give you the chance to practice real-life situations like going grocery shopping, preparing your own meals, and dining out.
How to Choose a Treatment Center
Choosing a treatment center depends on many factors including location, hours, staff, program offerings, and personal preference. Level of care is a major influencing factor. People will often travel farther away for inpatient or residential care since they will be living at the facility.
However, for partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, or outpatient treatment, you will need to find a location that is within reasonable driving distance. These programs require frequent sessions and you will return home at night after treatment is finished for the day.
The first step is to contact treatment centers in your area and speak with the admissions staff. They will be happy to provide you with more information or answer any questions you have. The treatment center may also have programming information on their website. This will help give you an idea of what to expect from the treatment program.
Choosing a treatment center is a very personal decision. You want to be sure you or your loved one will be comfortable with the staff and programming. Remember that you should always rely on a clinical assessment to determine what level of care is needed. The assessment is usually completed at your first appointment with a treatment center.
Ready to Take the First Step Towards Recovery?
If you are currently seeking eating disorder treatment for yourself or a loved one, we invite you to learn more about Seeds of Hope. We offer partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient levels of care for both adults and adolescents.
If you feel you may benefit from one of our programs, reach out to our admissions staff. When you contact us, there is no commitment to enter treatment. We can answer questions and provide more information to help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one.