Preparing for Eating Disorder Treatment Out of State

Woman reading in eating disorder treatment

With eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, professional intervention and treatment is often necessary for recovery and healing.

For many individuals who are suffering with eating disorders, seeking out treatment at a higher level of care is necessary to deal with the most severe symptoms related to these psychiatric illnesses. This may include inpatient hospitalization or residential treatment.

Research has found that the multidimensional treatment offered at higher levels of eating disorder care, such as residential treatment, leads to statistically significant changes in the severity of the symptoms often demonstrated by those with eating disorders [1].

For many people with eating disorders, treatment at a higher level of care can be a life-saving intervention.

Eating Disorder Treatment Options

When it comes to deciding on what eating disorder treatment may be most appropriate for you, the choices can be overwhelming.

Is a period of residential treatment necessary? Can you find a treatment center close to home, or will it be necessary to relocate for eating disorder treatment? It is important to know that you do not need to navigate this decision alone, and an eating disorder specialist can help you navigate the road of eating disorder treatment options.

An eating disorder treatment specialist, such as a physician, psychiatrist, or therapist, can help determine what level of care may be most appropriate for your unique needs after a full evaluation and assessment.

Factors that may be considered include severity and length of the illness, the presence of any co-occurring disorders, such as a mood disorder or substance abuse disorder, and/or the influence of trauma.

Other individual needs that should be considered include whether there is a preference of gender for treatment, if a specialized form of treatment or therapy is desired, or if specialized treatment is required.

Relocating to an Eating Disorder Treatment Center

When evaluating these factors, the needed criteria can be measured against the offerings of the various eating disorder treatment centers across the country.

In many cases, an eating disorder treatment center that meets all desired criteria may be located out of state from where you and your loved ones are living. While the thought of moving away from your hometown can be overwhelming to consider, it is important to consider how seeking out treatment at a place that is most appropriate for you can make all the difference in your life and well-being.

Woman in eating disorder treatment standing on lake shore

Research has found that about 80 percent of girls and women who receive eating disorder treatment do not get the intensity of treatment that they need, making it much more difficult to establish full remission from the disease [2].  For this reason, it is essential to follow the recommendations made by your eating disorder specialist, in terms of treatment level that may best address the individual needs you have.

A residential treatment center that can offer the therapeutic modalities you need for eating disorder recovery should be considered, regardless of location.

While eating disorder recovery is a lifelong commitment, remember that the time you will spend away from home will be a short stint of time. The average length of stay for residential treatment is about 83 days, though this may vary depending on the situation [3].

Preparing for Treatment

In many cases, relocating for treatment may help you completely focus on your eating disorder recovery efforts, as you are removed from your normal environment and potential triggers that may be contributing to the eating disorder.

With residential treatment for eating disorders, residents are required to stay at the facility 24/7, and in this regard, a resident wouldn’t necessarily be able to visit home during the stay.

Understanding the expectations for your treatment stay can be helpful in preparing for your journey ahead. You will likely have designated times to speak with family members, so be sure to have all your contacts on hand, including addresses and phone numbers.

It may also be helpful to work with your admissions coordinator to determine the details of what you should bring with you. Most residential treatment centers will outline specific details of items that you should plan on bringing with you as well as suggestions of what you should leave at home.

Girl on bench considering ED treatmentIn some instances, it may not be possible for you to update your key contacts before relocating for treatment, and in this situation, you may want to report to one key contact who can update other family members, co-workers, etc., as appropriate. When possible, inform your loved ones of your location, along with contact information of the treatment center, address, etc.

Moving away for treatment can feel like a difficult process, but remember the reason for your decision.

Eating disorder treatment, especially at a place that can address the unique needs you may have, can be an invaluable resource for your recovery.

Keep in mind that this phase of treatment will not last forever, and you will make the transition home, hopefully in a state of eating disorder recovery.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.  Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing,

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: Bean, P. et al. Evolution of symptom severity during residential treatment of females with eating disorders. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia, and Obesity. December 2001, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 197-204
[2]: Using Aetna For Eating Disorder Treatment, Accessed 26 June 2017
[3]: Frisch MJ, et al. Residential Treatment for Eating Disorders. Int J Eat Disord. 2006 Jul; 30(5):434-42.

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 August 17, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 17, 2017.
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