If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, treatment is essential for successful long-term recovery. Eating disorders are complex illnesses that almost always involve serious underlying issues. The National Institutes of Health stresses that an individualized treatment plan through a high-quality eating disorder treatment program is the foundation for successful recovery.
But not all eating disorder treatment programs offer the same quality of care. Here are some essential questions to ask each program when you’re looking for treatment for an eating disorder.
What levels of care do you offer?
Choosing the right level of care is essential for successful recovery from an eating disorder.2 The level of care you require will be determined through the intake process, which will include a medical and mental health history, a history of your eating habits and attitudes toward food and the nature of your symptoms. An intake counselor will also ask about your social and emotional development, family dynamics, major life events and traumas, any history of substance abuse and other important factors that may contribute to disordered eating.
All of this information will determine the level of care you need. The five standard levels of care, from least restrictive to most intense, are outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, residential and inpatient hospitalization.
What types of eating disorders do you specialize in?
Finding an eating disorder treatment program that treats or specializes in your specific type of eating disorder will offer the best treatment outcome. If you have a co-occurring mental illness like anxiety or depression, you’ll want to ensure the treatment program is equipped to treat both the mental illness and the eating disorder. The same is true if you have a co-occurring substance use disorder. Integrated treatment is essential for successfully treating co-occurring disorders.
Do you employ a range of medical and mental health specialists, therapists and nutritionists, and are they licensed, trained and certified?
A high-quality eating disorder treatment program will have a variety of professionals on staff who treat different aspects of the eating disorder. All staff should be licensed by the state and trained in their field. Ideally, they’ll also hold additional voluntary certifications that indicate ongoing education in the field and familiarity with new and emerging best practices and treatments.
What kinds of treatment therapies do you offer?
A holistic approach to treatment will address a wide range of issues from a variety of angles to promote whole-person healing. Treatments should include both traditional and complementary therapies, and all therapies should be based on research and administered by licensed professionals.
Therapies at an eating disorder treatment program should take place in group, individual and family settings, and they should include psychotherapy, nutritional counseling and educational components, as well as holistic therapies like art therapy, equine therapy or biofeedback therapy.