Determining Your Priorities in Choosing an Eating Disorder Program

Lake with mountain behind it

Choosing to get eating disorder treatment is a courageous step. Accepting that you need treatment can be a process in and of itself [1]. This realization, paired with needing to choose a treatment program, can be overwhelming. There are things to consider when choosing an eating disorder program that can make it easier to decide.

Here are some things to consider so you can choose the right eating disorder program for you:


Safety should always be the biggest consideration when choosing a program. Eating disorders are potentially deadly mental health conditions due to possible medical impact [1]. So it is important to get the level of help required in order for treatment to be as safe as possible.

There are different levels of treatment depending on the level of severity. Possible levels of care include hospitalization, residential, intensive outpatient programming, and outpatient treatment.

These different levels vary in the amount of support and accountability you will receive from a therapist, doctor, and registered dietitian.

It can be difficult to be honest with yourself about the severity of your eating disorder. It can be helpful to research eating disorder agencies and do an assessment. These professionals will ask detailed questions in order to properly diagnose and assess the appropriate level of care. Being aware of the medical recommendation regarding level of care can help you sort through which programs to choose.

Also, being aware of an agency’s accreditation status is an important safety consideration. Treatment facilities are regulated to ensure ethical standards of care. You can ask an agency or independent professional about their accreditation or licensure status.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Eating disorder program to treat co-occurring disordersSomeone has a co-occurring disorder when they have more than one mental health diagnosis at a time. For example, someone with an eating disorder may also be diagnosed with anxiety or depression. It is important to treat both in order to increase the chances of lasting recovery.

While it is widely recognized that an eating disorder is an attempt to cope with underlying emotions, there are some mental health conditions that some treatment centers may not be equipped to treat [1]. For example, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress (PTSD) often involve more specialized treatment and knowledge.

There are certain treatment programs that specialize in co-occurring conditions like these. While an eating disorder will likely be the primary focus of treatment, a program that treats co-occurring disorders may be more worthy of your time and energy. This may also offer greater potential for overall relief and peace.

Eating Disorder Program Treatment Approach

While there are some similarities in how professionals treat eating disorders, there can be variations in their approaches. For example, some eating disorder programs may have more of an emphasis on behavioral therapy, group therapy, or a program may implement experiential approaches such as art or equine therapy. When looking for a program, ask them what type of modalities they use. This can give you a sense of what your time will look like in that program.

Each treatment provider or program has something to offer. However, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. One program may do wonders for someone, and it may not be well-suited for someone else. Sorting through safety considerations, mental health needs, and the overall treatment approach is important in finding the best program for you. This can be overwhelming, but an eating-disorder-free life is waiting for you on the other side.

[1] Siegel, Michele., Brisman, J., & Weinshel, M. (2009). Surviving an eating disorder: Strategies for family and friends. (3rd ed.) HarperCollins Publishers.

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on 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 September 14, 2020, on
Reviewed & Approved on September 14, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.