Eating disorders are deeply-rooted psychological conditions that can have a serious impact on someone’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Due to the complexity of their nature, they nearly always require professional help to overcome.
Finding the right kind of program for eating disorder recovery can feel like an overwhelming task. But receiving the proper care is a crucial step toward ensuring someone can recover from these debilitating and potentially even deadly conditions.
There are some considerations to keep in mind that may make it easier to choose the best eating disorder treatment center for you. Finding the right kind of care can make a big and positive difference on someone’s recovery journey.
Factors to Consider for Eating Disorder Care
When seeking the eating disorder center that will work best for you or your loved one, there are three broad considerations to keep in mind:
- Your personal needs. This could include everything from the type and severity of the eating disorder you’re dealing with, to your willingness or ability to travel far for treatment.
- The details of the center and its staff. The types of programs, physicians, rules, and philosophies are different at every center. It’s these details that may make a real difference in your treatment.
- Insurance/treatment cost. Unfortunately, eating disorder treatment is typically lengthy and expensive. And health insurance companies have their own priorities when determining which programs they will or will not cover.
When looked at as a whole, it can feel like an overwhelming amount of factors to think about. But examining each factor separately may be a helpful way to tackle the process.
As you go along, you can make a list of questions or concerns you may have. Having these questions answered by a facility or your insurance company can hopefully help you make the best determination about you or your loved one’s care.
If you’re going to need help paying for treatment, examining your insurance plan is likely the best place to start.
Every policy is different, and may or may not cover different types of eating disorders, different types of treatment, and different durations of care. The process of securing coverage will also vary by company and plan.
Many treatment centers have employees dedicated to helping you sort out insurance information. So if you find a center you like, you can call and ask about whether your plan will work there.
If you’d rather start from a place of choosing between options you know will be covered, you can call a representative from your healthcare company to find out more about your specific plan, or ask up-front about which programs are in-network.
Accreditation means a treatment center has been evaluated by a third-party and recognized as meeting certain standards or quality of care. It’s not required for eating disorder treatment facilities to be accredited, but it could be a good indicator that the program takes itself seriously, and is dedicated to offering high-quality care.
The Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is one of the primary accrediting organizations in the healthcare industry. Their stamp of approval is a good indicator of a center’s level of care and safety.
A number of state and federal laws are in place to help assure employees at these facilities are appropriately certified and qualified to treat eating disorders. That means there’s a very good chance the psychiatrists, therapists, registered dietitians, physicians, and other medical professionals you’re looking into are all going to be properly licensed.
In that case, you might want to look more into the background of these treatment team members to help you decide. Some may be qualified for specialized treatment, while others may have a very narrow focus, such as only working with patients who have binge eating disorder (BED).
Looking further into how long these professionals have practiced could be another factor that helps you make your decision.
The location of the treatment center may seem like one of the lesser factors to consider, but it can make a big difference in how likely someone is to consistently go to treatment.
Some patients may have mobility challenges or struggle to access transportation. Others may have schedules that are difficult to work around. Still others simply don’t want to spend extra time and gas money commuting to a distant treatment facility.
Your personal needs, abilities, and willingness to travel should be kept in mind when looking at center location.
Treatment Approaches and Supportive Services
Different treatment centers may offer different approaches to eating disorder treatment. Some may use a more traditional medical model, while others focus on advanced evidence-based treatments. Finding a center that aligns with your personal preferences and goals is important.
Further, centers may offer different kinds of supportive services. These are additional treatment modalities offered to patients, such as nutritional therapy, meal support, art therapy, and more. Looking into the additional types of treatment a center offers may be a good indicator about the culture there, or be a way to determine if their goals and philosophies align with your own.
Recovery from an eating disorder is a long-term process. Some centers recognize that by offering ongoing support and aftercare after a patient leaves inpatient treatment or more intensive programs, in order to help them maintain progress even after discharge.
What to Do If You Want to Change Treatment Centers
If you’re not happy with the program you’ve chosen once treatment has started, there are still a few steps you can take.
First, talk to the staff at the center about your concerns. Be specific about your worries. In many cases, the staff may be able to help you improve the situation without having to change treatment programs.
If your concerns are not met or you continue to experience difficulty after speaking with the staff, you can consider requesting a transfer to another center.
It’s important to note that this can be a lengthy and laborious process. It will likely involve a lot of time speaking with the insurance company, speaking with the center you’re leaving, speaking with the new center you want to join, and possibly speaking with doctors, in order to ensure everyone is on the same page and you have everything you need to move forward.
If you’re unhappy but not sure you want to deal with a transfer, a support system like a therapist or support group outside the treatment center can also help you cope. On top of offering support for your eating disorder experience, they can help support you through the difficulty you’re experiencing in treatment.
Levels of Care for Eating Disorders
Finally, when looking over eating disorder treatment centers, keep in mind that there are various levels of care these facilities may offer. Which level of care will work best for you depends on the severity of the case, as well as the patient’s medical history.
A physician or therapist may be able to help you better assess which level of care will be most helpful.
Residential treatment centers
Essentially the most intensive form of care, residential treatment provides around-the-clock care and support for individuals with eating disorders. A patient will live full-time at the center for a period of anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
The purpose of these programs is to help someone become physically and emotionally stable enough to pursue deeper treatment. They typically employ strictly-regimented schedules which feature therapy sessions, including individual and group therapy; medical monitoring; meal support; and nutritional counseling.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
Partial hospitalization programs are a step down from inpatient treatment. They represent a hybrid model of care, which allows the patient to live and sleep at home, but still requires them to participate in a substantial amount of treatment.
Patients in these programs are expected to spend anywhere from 4-6 days a week at a treatment facility, with programs lasting anywhere from a half-day to a full eight hours.
During these sessions, a patient will continue working on the strategies and therapies they started learning at inpatient care, as well as continue attending individual and group therapy. Meal support, nutritional counseling, and medical monitoring may also be part of the program.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
The true middle ground of treatment, intensive outpatient programs allow a patient to begin reentering their social world while still offering plenty of support.
During this time, patients live and sleep at home, and are only expected to attend a few sessions per week, for shorter durations. This gives many people the time to start taking on more social responsibilities, such as work or school, and to test out the new skills they’ve been learning outside of a treatment setting.
IOPs are generally recommended when a patient showcases significant control over their eating disorder symptoms, but still want or need extra support as they transition to a more normal schedule.
While still relatively new, virtual eating disorder treatment—and virtual care of all types—is becoming increasingly popular.
This method allows a patient to connect with their care team virtually, using video conferencing apps or other online programs.
Virtual treatment typically represents either the last step for someone who has been through more intensive care, or the initial step for someone with a less severe condition. Across the board, these programs make good options for individuals who live in under-serviced areas or who may have difficulty traveling or leaving home for treatment.
Finding Help for an Eating Disorder
If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to seek out help.
Speaking with a physician, therapist, or other trusted medical professional is a great place to start. These experts will likely have advice and may be able to point you in the direction of helpful programs or determine the best next steps.
A number of eating disorder hotlines can also offer more information and resources. These services are generally run anonymously, so if you’re struggling with an eating disorder, but don’t feel comfortable talking to friends or family about it, this could be a good option.
Regardless, the most important thing to remember is that help, and recovery, is possible. With the right kind of treatment, someone will be able to achieve a healthier and brighter future.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated on April 11, 2023
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com