Aftercare Plan for Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

Friends working with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Completing residential treatment for an eating disorder is an incredible feat, but the fight for recovery does not stop there.

Individuals leaving treatment must take time to create an aftercare plan to help them combat relapse and continue in their journey toward recovery.

Aftercare Treatment Plan

What is an Aftercare Treatment Plan? This term may confuse those that are not in the mental health or recovery sphere, but it is not a scary concept.

An aftercare plan is when a person and their treatment team look ahead to determine what eating disorder difficulties may arise after leaving treatment and plan how the person will face and overcome these problems.

Creating this plan should provide comfort that, no matter what your eating disorder may throw at you, you have the strategies, abilities, and resources to overcome it and maintain recovery.

Below are some questions that may arise after you leave residential treatment. When creating your aftercare plane, be sure that these questions are answered.

Where Will You Go?

It is crucial to find a community that is supportive and connect with them. This connection with a community that understands your struggle can help you remain accountable for your recovery and the aftercare plan.

It is crucial to remain connected with a community that is supportive of you and holds you accountable for your recovery.

Some examples of helpful, recovery-focused communities often include support groups, online communities, or continued work with a therapist, nutritionist, or both.

When considering what community is best for you and your recovery, think about what makes you most comfortable. If you are concerned about joining face-to-face support groups, there are other options from which you can choose.

Online recovery communities are becoming more popular, and research indicates that internet and mobile-based aftercare are just as successful as face-to-face support. These communities can be accessed inexpensively anywhere at any time and offer a degree of anonymity that leads to people being more open [1].

Work with your treatment team to find out what support system will work for you as well as how you can find and engage in it.

When doing so, take the input and expertise of your team into account, as they can lead you to positive and helpful communities and away from those that may do you more harm than good.

Who Can You Call?

In the same vein as above, you will need to know who you can call when troubles arise.

There needs to be a plan for those “911” moments, when everything may feel as if it is crashing down around you, and you need immediate support. However, you need to prepare for day-to-day emotional maintenance.

Woman in hat in an Aftercare Treatment Plan

Unfortunately, we often only reach out for help when everything is exploding. At that point, it is much harder to resist relapse and work through the overwhelming emotions or challenging circumstances.

When creating your aftercare treatment plan, include those you can call in small moments, when things are a bit challenging, or you just need to talk.

This will help you maintain support and accountability while slowly relieving pressure and avoiding an emotional build-up.

What Can You Do?

Never underestimate the resilient and fearsome person you are.

You have endured treatment and, in doing so, gained knowledge and skills that you can use to fight your eating disorder and remain in recovery.

Remember and use the positive coping skills that you learned to fight anxiety or sadness in a healthy way.

List activities that you can enjoy outside of treatment to promote a life of recovery.

Recall the layers of yourself that you uncovered in therapy. Remember the things you learned about who you are and what you have to offer the world. This new knowledge and tools can help you defeat any negative self-talk.

Write down these skills in your aftercare plan so that you don’t forget that you are equipped to fight this battle.

Creating an aftercare treatment plan is a valuable and necessary part of planning for your life beyond treatment.

Knowing where to go, who to turn to, and what you can control in difficult moments provides you with the strength and resources to avoid relapse and continue embracing recovery.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1]: Bauer, S. et al. (2003). Use of text-messaging in the aftercare of patients with bulimia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review, 11:3, 279-290.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on April 30, 2018.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 30, 2018.
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