Do I Need Residential Eating Disorder Treatment?

Woman thinking about which provider is best for her

Residential Eating disorder treatment offers various levels of care and knowing which level is right for you depends on the severity of your disorder. The duration, severity of your symptoms, and your needs will ultimately determine the type and level of care best suited for you.

Delivery of Services

Treatment for eating disorders can be received in hospitals, residential treatment facilities, private offices among other options [1]. The type of treatment can be acute, long-term, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient care or general outpatient.

Numerous treatment offerings are provided during the day or evening, depending on work or school schedules. Facilities try to offer flexible treatment programs and schedules to best suit the sufferer’s needs.

Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

Typically a person will enter a hospital or residential setting when their eating disorder causes them to be medically/psychologically unstable, or the symptoms are so severe that they need 24-hour care.

Once symptoms are stabilized, then the person can move to partial-hospitalization.

The treatment setting should ideally be in line with the goals of treatment. Most seek to stabilize the individual medically, to help the person stop eating disorder behaviors, and to address and underlying mental health issues that could be maintaining the eating disorder [1].

Unfortunately, many eating disorder sufferers are primarily dependent on insurance for treatment coverage. Frequently, a person’s insurance coverage will determine the level of care that can be received.

Since health insurance has limits on what they will cover and pay, the severity and the duration of the eating disorder will also play a determining role as to what type of treatment can be received. Other influencing factors will include the eating disorder diagnosis and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Friends sitting on a benchAdditional factors, such as medical lab work, vital signs, and complications from medical issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. will be factored into the insurance’s coverage [1]. Insurance companies will also consider psychiatric problems that may worsen and possible suicidal risks when evaluating the options for level of care.

There are other mitigating factors that need to be addressed when considering what level is best [2]. One is the sufferer’s relationship with food and their eating behaviors. Frequently, sufferers who have eating disorders have unhealthy patterns with food that are extremely difficult to change on their own and may need a period of supervised to care to regain control.

Many times people will socially isolate and withdraw from activities due to their eating disorder and their obsession with food. Restriction, fasting, binging or purging and other behaviors become all-consuming in the person’s life.

These all-consuming issues are significant signs that something is wrong and the person is more than likely struggling with an eating disorder.

Regardless of the level of treatment, dieticians can play a significant role in recovery as they help with meal planning, dispelling food myths, and re-establishing healthy food thoughts or interactions

Treatment programs, whether residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, or outpatient should include various options. Often these options can include educational interventions, awareness tools, therapy, nutrition and meal planning, and psychiatric care [3].

Some key aspects of treatment options include:

Residential Care

Teen girl in residential careResidential care is when you stay at a facility for 24-hour care. All meals, snacks, and support groups, therapy, and medication management is taken care of at the facility. A typical stay is two weeks to 30 days.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization is the same is residential except the person gets to go home at night to sleep and come back for breakfast in the morning. A typical stay for partial hospitalization is two weeks to 30 days depending on insurance benefits.


Intensive outpatient treatment is the next step down in care which is 3 hours per day and up to 7 days a week depending on the facility. At this level, the individual provides their own meals which are checked by the facility staff.

If the sufferer’s meal does not meet the meal plan requirements, supplements are then provided. Normally, IOP programming is conducted in a group therapy format. Most other individual therapeutic and nutritional sessions are done outside of IOP sessions.

Outpatient Therapy

Outpatient therapy is when a person meets once per week up to three times per week with their outpatient counselor. They can meet with a nutritionist once per week or less depending on the sufferer’s needs. Psychiatric appointments are scheduled as needed.

Regardless of the level of care that an individual enters, eating disorder treatment is an invaluable resource. It is the initial step stone towards real recovery.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] Treatment Settings and Levels of Care. (n.d.). Retrieved February 06, 2018, from
[2] Haines, S. (n.d.). Do I Need Treatment for My Eating Disorder: 5 Thoughts to Consider. Retrieved February 06, 2018, from
[3] Treatment Options. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2018, from

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 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 25, 2018.
Reviewed on April 25, 2018 by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC
Published on

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.