The Beauty of Optimizing Your Eating Disorder Treatment

Girl Developing an Eating Disorder

Contributor: Joy Linn, MFT – Interim Executive Clinical Director at The Lotus Collaborative

Terrified of embarking on eating disorder treatment? You’re definitely not alone. So much of the process of seeking and engaging in professional treatment for an eating disorder is a daunting one with barriers to hurdle.

Taking a page from Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and Radically Open DBT (RO DBT), might I suggest that you try radical acceptance for that which you cannot control while aiming for empowerment and flexibility for that which you can claim in your treatment journey.

Loaded concepts that are outside of your control like health insurance systems, treatment programs, and levels of care could easily make anyone feel trapped. Take a moment to pause and breathe, then look for where the possibilities and opportunities are for you to be empowered in navigating your journey.

Steps to Eating Disorder Treatment

Step 1: “Knowledge is Power”

Get curious; be informed! Confused about what eating disorder treatment is out there? That’s okay! While intimidating, the journey of recovery from an eating disorder is an opportunity for significant personal transformation.

Professional treatment can be compared to the scaffolding that encases a building during a remodel. This external support allows the remodeling process to occur.

Girl tossing leaves while in Eating Disorder TreatmentAs the building is updated, pieces of the scaffolding are slowly removed until the final transformation is revealed. In eating disorder treatment, there are multiple levels of “scaffolding” or structured support to enable the healing and transformation process to occur.

At its most supportive and protective are specialized inpatient medical hospital units and therapeutic residential settings, which provide 24/7 care. Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are the next step down and provide treatment at long hours during the day 5-7 days a week without overnight care.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are typically a few hours a day, ranging from 3-7 days a week. Outpatient treatment has the lowest level of intensity of support, requires the most independence with recovery, and involves treatment sessions that may be provided weekly or less frequently.

If you are contemplating treatment for recovery from an eating disorder and have the privilege of access to treatment, please consider taking advantage of this opportunity.

Step 2: Identify Your Recovery Barriers

Accessing any eating disorder treatment in the first place is so often a challenge in and of itself. Yours will be unique to you. Recovery is a time to dig deep and find resources that will help you hurdle barriers.

There are also more subtle barriers at work, such as collusion with one’s eating disorder and internalized stigma. For many, shame can be a powerful barrier that tells one that they don’t deserve to recover.

Try to avoid the trap of coping by avoiding. Be honest with yourself and connect with those who can help you be solution-focused!

Step 3: Optimize Your Treatment Path

Often a full course of treatment at multiple levels is helpful for setting the recovery process up for success. If you are being recommended a higher level of care, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to go for it all the way, starting out at the highest level available and not skipping any steps along the way!

This will give you the highest chance of success. When treatment is provided at the most intensive and for the longest time possible, the individual in recovery has the highest chance for a full recovery. When possible, completing as much care as possible within the same treatment agency is a way to optimize one’s treatment path.

Woman TravelingStaying at the same program when changing levels of care decreases barriers to maintaining momentum in recovery. It gives more opportunity to simply focus on recovery and for the treating providers to sustain continuity of care.

When a treatment program does not offer the multiple levels of care for seamless step-down, then finding other treatment programs that have similar approaches to recovery and avoiding gaps in care is the next best path to aim for. Look for what resonates with you and feels like the best match in recovery philosophy.

If you have the advantage of being able to check out a treatment center before admission, see if the team and environment feel like a good enough match for your needs. This is your recovery!

Step 4: Relax into Healing

It’s a beautiful thing when momentum is built for recovery, and there is sufficient support for maintaining that momentum. Factors that can support this include being able to trust your providers, having a grasp of your treatment path, having at least one supporter involved, and courage to do the hard, transformative work of recovery.

Fogarty, S., & Ramjan, L. M. (2016). Factors impacting treatment and recovery in Anorexia Nervosa: qualitative findings from an online questionnaire. Journal of eating disorders, 4, 18. doi:10.1186/s40337-016-0107-1

Halmi K. A. (2005). The multimodal treatment of eating disorders. World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 4(2), 69–73.

Kass, A. E., Kolko, R. P., & Wilfley, D. E. (2013). Psychological treatments for eating disorders. Current opinion in psychiatry, 26(6), 549–555. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e328365a30e

About Our Sponsor:

The Lotus Collaborative is an eating disorder treatment center with clinics in Santa Cruz and San Francisco, California. We serve clients of all genders and sexual orientations, ages 14 and up. TLC specializes in the treatment of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, and other disordered eating. TLC offers PHP, IOP, Pro Track IOP, and Outpatient Services. You can contact The Lotus Collaborative at 844-263-1834

About the Author:

Joy Linn ImageJoy Linn, MFT, the Interim Executive Clinical Director at The Lotus Collaborative, has been a part of The Lotus Collaborative for the past two years and has been providing therapy in various settings as a therapist for the past fifteen years. She has the utmost respect for those recovering from eating disorders and is truly honored to be witness to the personal transformation of her clients. Joy is committed to walking her own lifelong journey towards personal healing and self-actualization.

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.

Reviewed & Approved on December 9, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
Published December 9, 2019, on