For someone struggling with an eating disorder, outpatient treatment may not be enough. Over the years, a system has been put in place to help individuals struggling with eating disorders to overcome obstacles and fully recover. However, the levels of care in eating disorder treatment can be difficult to understand at times. My hope with this article is to better explain the different levels and why they are necessary.
There are hospitals with units dedicated to clients with eating disorders. Due to the toll an eating disorder can take on someone's body, the highest level of care may be medically necessary. Hospitals can better monitor and treat the medical issues that may arise from an eating disorder. The length of stay in an inpatient hospital varies from client to client.
Residential Level of Care
This level of care is when an individual will reside in a facility for several weeks at time. Residential facilities provide individual, family and group therapy, as well as, meal support and nutrition education. A client can receive more intensive therapy due to sessions occurring more often throughout the week and will also have group therapy several times a day. Meal support is an important piece of eating disorder treatment and the residential level of care provides both client and staff support for each meal and snack throughout the day, as well as, weekly sessions with a registered dietitian.
Residential facilities have medical staff as well, typically nurses and a psychiatrist for medication management and medical assessments.
Partial Hospitalization Program
Partial Hospitalization or PHP is a day program; which is usually several hours a day, several times a week. This is a step-down program where clients are able to live at home and continue to receive an amount of support that is appropriate for them.
A goal of PHP is to enhance a client's ability to rely on themselves and their support system to continue challenging their eating disorders on a daily basis and be able to share with their treatment team the struggles they are experiencing in the real world.
Intensive Outpatient Program
Intensive Outpatient or IOP is also a day program, however, the hours per day and times per week decrease. As a client gets further along in recovery, their dependence on a program decreases while their independence increases. The goal: to be able to combat their eating disorders more efficiently, live a life that aligns with their values and they need their treatment team less.
Outpatient treatment can consist of weekly sessions with a therapist and/or a registered dietitian. This is how eating disorder treatment can look, either in the beginning of one's journey to recovery or at the end.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, please reach out for help. You deserve it and you can overcome it!
Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) in at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling.