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Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment: A Comprehensive Guide to Eating Disorder Treatment Options

The prevalence of eating disorders is on the rise. They can be life-threatening if left untreated, which is why seeking professional help is crucial. Eating disorders have a profound impact on individuals’ physical and psychological functioning and a wide-reaching ripple effect on loved ones and families. Surpassed only by opioid addiction, eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders.* The importance of seeking treatment cannot be overstated.


When you identify you or a loved one is in need of treatment, navigating the next steps and the various levels of care can feel intimidating.


How do you know which treatment setting and level of care is appropriate?


Below is an overview of the different levels of care available, including inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs, and outpatient eating disorder treatment. Understanding the differences between them can help you make informed decisions about your care.


At BeyondWell KC, we are happy to help guide you in your decision - contact us today for a free discovery call.



Inpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders


For those experiencing life-threatening medical complications as a result of their eating disorder or severe malnutrition, admittance to a hospital for acute medical stabilization may be required. This is technically the highest level of specialized care available for an eating disorder.

The next highest level of care available for those with eating disorders is Inpatient or Residential Treatment (IP/Res). These levels of care are similar and typically differ in the level of medical monitoring. These levels of care are intended for those individuals who require round-the-clock medical and behavioral monitoring and/or significant weight restoration, those who have been unsuccessful at interrupting behaviors at lower levels of care, and in some cases, those who do not live in an environment conducive to recovery. At these levels of care, individuals reside in the facility where they receive care. They are set up with a treatment team usually consisting of a doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, and dietitian. They attend therapeutic groups and structured and supported meals and snacks with other individuals receiving treatment.


Inpatient eating disorder treatment

Partial Hospitalization (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)


As individuals’ health stabilizes, they are closer to being weight–restored (if applicable), and behaviors decline in severity and frequency and 24-hour monitoring is no longer necessary, they are eventually approved for readiness to step down to a Partial-Hospitalization Program (PHP).


At this level of care, individuals reside at home or in off-site, temporary housing and come to a facility during the day where they attend therapeutic groups, structured and supported meals, and to meet with their treatment team. Program schedules vary and range from 6-10 hours/day and 5-7 days per week. Some meals and snacks are consumed on one’s own. Individuals at the PHP level of care have more independence, offering opportunities for exposure and to practice skills in their home or home-like environments.

A step lower is an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), which is a level of care intended for those whose behaviors occur with less frequency and severity but who are still in need of some structure and support. Programming is typically 3-4 hours/day and 3-4 days/week. Each day of programming typically includes 3-3 therapeutic groups and at least one supported meal. Individuals participating in IOP are often able to attend school or work. In some cases, individuals are encouraged to set up or resume individual sessions with their outpatient treatment team while in IOP.


Many make the mistake of assuming participation in higher levels of care is a cure-all. Rather, higher levels of care are in many cases essential for an individual to achieve medical stabilization and lower the frequency or severity of behaviors and volume of one’s eating disorder to a level where ongoing progress is possible in an outpatient setting.


Outpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders


The lowest level of care is outpatient treatment (like BeyondWell KC!). This level of care involves individual meetings with a therapist or dietitian approximately once or twice a week and in addition, regular outpatient medical and psychiatric follow-up.


Those seeking or stepping down to treatment in an outpatient setting are medically stable. They are often still struggling, but their behaviors are better managed. Most individuals spend the bulk of their recovery in outpatient treatment, sometimes years.


Outpatient eating disorder treatment therapy

Choosing the Right Treatment Option


There are many factors to consider when determining the appropriate level of care for yourself or a loved one: frequency and severity of behaviors and degree of behavioral containment needed; co-occurring disorders and how these are treated alongside the eating disorder; medical status; motivation for recovery; level of support at home; typical length of stay; ages, genders, and diagnoses of other patients; program offerings and treatment philosophies; proximity to the treatment center; or whether the treatment center has off-site, temporary housing while out-of-towners attend PHP/IOP. One of the most significant determining factors, of course, is insurance coverage and out-of-pocket cost.


If you or your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, do not wait to seek help.


At BeyondWell KC, we would love to set up a free discovery call to answer your questions and to help guide you toward the most appropriate next step, whether that be getting established with an outpatient treatment team at BeyondWell KC or looking into admission to higher level of care, IOP, PHP, IP/Residential, or acute medical stabilization.


Many of our BeyondWell KC clinicians have worked at the other levels of care and have first-hand knowledge about what you can expect. All of our clinicians are familiar with eating disorder treatment programs in the Kansas City area and across the nation.


Taking the next steps can feel intimidating; we are here to help guide and support you in the process.




*Chesney, E., Goodwin, G. M., & Fazel, S. (2014). Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta-review. World Psychiatry, 13(2), 153-160

1 comentario


Invitado
24 abr 2023

This is really useful information! Thank you SO much for going through these treatment options so thoroughly 🙏

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