The How-To Guide for Starting your Child in Eating Disorder Treatment

Mom and daughter on cliff

When your child struggles with an eating disorder, it can be a time of fear, frustration, heartache, and confusion. From navigating treatment options to learning how to support your child’s recovery, it can be a complex and challenging time. The Emily Program knows this. Since 1993, we have worked with families and friends to help them support loved ones suffering from eating disorders. 

What is Eating Disorder Treatment?

Eating disorder treatment is specialized care that addresses all facets underlying an individual’s eating disorder along with their current behaviors. Eating disorders are treated most effectively at a specialty treatment center that provides multidisciplinary support. At The Emily Program, intensive care involves a medical professional, therapist, and dietitian. These professionals comprise an individual’s eating disorder treatment team, ensuring that their eating disorder is holistically addressed and that recovery begins with a solid foundation. At The Emily Program, treatment teams provide multidisciplinary, integrative support for individuals of all identities struggling with food and body issues. Treatment may look different for every client and can vary based on the level of care recommended for the individual.

What are Levels of Care?

Levels of care refer to the appropriate amount of support an individual needs to successfully reach long-lasting recovery. Typical levels of care offered for eating disorder treatment include:

Residential Care. Residential care provides treatment for individuals who are suffering from a severe or prolonged eating disorder that requires 24/7 professional support and medical monitoring. In residential, clients receive 24/7 inpatient support while living in a home-like treatment center. These centers are quiet, safe, and comfortable. Additionally, residential facilities are designed to provide individuals the opportunity to engage in therapy while practicing healthy daily living. 

Partial Hospitalization/Intensive Day Program (PHP/IDP). PHP/IDP is an all-day treatment program that is typically a step-down from residential programming, but it can also be a starting point for clients who need a higher level of care than outpatient provides but don’t require 24/7 support. Typically, clients in PHP/IDP spend up to 35 hours a week in programming.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). This level of care provides support for those stepping down from PHP/IDP or individuals who start needing more support and structure than outpatient offers. In IOP, individuals typically receive 12 hours a week of programming.

Outpatient Program (OP). Outpatient care is typically the next step down from IOP or it is a starting place for individuals who need a lower level of support. Outpatient provides non-intensive, tailored treatment that may include group therapy, individual therapy, nutrition education, and recovery skills development. 

I Think my Child Needs Help. Now What?

Realizing your child needs eating disorder support is the first step to starting them on the road to recovery. Once you have decided that your child would benefit from eating disorder treatment, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Locate an accessible treatment center that offers evidence-based eating disorder treatment for you and your family. 
  2. Once you have found a treatment center in a location that your child can attend, call the admissions or information line. For The Emily Program, individuals can call our admission team at 1-888-364-5977.
  3. When you call us, an admissions specialist will ask about your concerns, your child’s eating behaviors, and other basic information. After gathering your information, they will schedule a phone call with your Clinical Admissions Specialist.
  4. Your Clinical Admissions Specialist will complete a preliminary phone intake, recommend a level of care and schedule your admission date. Work with insurance if needed. After a level of care is recommended, you can discuss your insurance benefits to figure out what is covered. If your insurance does not appear to cover eating disorder treatment, we recommend contacting your insurance provider directly and advocating for coverage. For more information on insurance coverage and tips on advocating for care, visit our insurance page
  5. Start treatment! Once insurance is set and the intake is complete, your child will be able to start eating disorder treatment. 
  6. Get educated. When your child is struggling, you want to be there for them. Getting support and education around their struggles will likely help you in understanding and standing by them. The Emily Program offers ED 101 classes and free Family and Friends support sessions, which you can find here

My Child is in Treatment. Now What?

Once your child is officially in treatment, you can continue to provide support and guidance for them. We encourage parents to attend family therapy sessions, recovery nights, and more. By showing up for your child’s treatment, you can act as a positive role model and encourage them to reach full recovery. In addition, we recommend supporting your child’s treatment team and their set meal plan. If your child falters in recovery, that is completely normal. Recovery is a process and it takes time. It is seldom logical or linear. The best thing parents can do is be available, be supportive, and be open to the hills and valleys of the recovery process. Full recovery is not only possible, but it’s also probable.

If your child is ready to start eating disorder treatment, call The Emily Program at 1-888-364-5977. We would be happy to get the whole family started on the road to recovery and healing.

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