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What is Eating Disorder Outpatient Treatment?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 17, 2024
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An eating disorder outpatient treatment program focuses on helping individuals trying to deal with an eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa, while those patients are not admitted to a hospital or other residential facility. Outpatient treatment programs vary in intensity, depending on how bad the disorder is. Most outpatient treatment programs, however, focus on therapy, education, and nutritional guidance.

Many treatment centers or hospitals that deal with eating disorders offer intensive eating disorder outpatient treatment. This usually requires a patient to spend a good portion of her day at the facility. During this time, therapy sessions and nutritional guidance are offered. Many times, supervised meals are offered. Additionally, patients with a history of purging, or throwing up after meals, are supervised when they use the restroom.

Patients with a less severe problem may benefit more from a less intense eating disorder outpatient treatment program. It still offers the same type of treatment, but at a less intense pace. This type of eating disorder outpatient treatment usually only requires a patient to meet with counselors a few times every week.

Counseling and therapy are some of the biggest parts of any eating disorder outpatient treatment. Individual therapy can help a patient deal with body or self-esteem issues often prevalent in individuals suffering from an eating disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most popular types of therapy for those with an eating disorder. This type of therapy can force patients to recognize bad eating habits and unlearn them.

Family therapy may also be part of eating disorder outpatient treatment. This allows for the family members of a patient to meet with their loved one in a structured environment with a counselor. These counselors can often help a family understand more about their loved one's disorder as well as open the lines of communication.

While participating in an eating disorder outpatient treatment program, many patients will participate in group therapy. This structured setting allows patients to meet with others who have similar problems, usually without shame and embarrassment. Talking and listening to others with similar problems is often thought to be very therapeutic.

Education is another major aspect of eating disorder treatment. Along with general information about eating disorders, patients will also be educated on how to live a healthier lifestyle. This can include things such as relaxation techniques and strategies to maintain a healthy weight.

Nutritionists or dieticians are also an important aspect of all types of eating disorder treatments, including outpatient treatment. The goal of these professionals is helping patients develop and maintain healthy eating habits. This can include meal planning help. Individuals with an eating disorder are often instructed to avoid strict diets. Instead they are encouraged to stick with a regular healthy eating schedule.

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