Stepping Down from Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

Woman battling Longstanding Anorexia

Entering residential eating disorder treatment can be so frightening and create a whirlwind of emotions, doubts, fears, and concerns. One of the scariest parts can be the worry about what comes after.

You may be thinking, “I fought so hard to get to the point where I could acknowledge a problem and come here…to weight restore…to open up…and now I have to rejoin the same life that triggered my disorder?!”

It is understandably overwhelming and exhausting, but, let’s shed some light on those fears by talking about what stepping down from residential eating disorder treatment might look like.

Options Other Than Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

Our culture is becoming much more aware of eating disorders and the dangers they present to individuals struggling. As a result, there are more treatment options than ever before. Like goldilocks, you can coordinate with your treatment team to find one that is “just right” for where you are in your recovery.

Reasons Banner used with relationship in eating disorder recovery


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You may choose to take a teeny tiny step down from residential eating disorder treatment into what is called a partial hospitalization program (PHP). This will work for you if you are medically stable from your disorder but still require the consistent and stable structure of treatment. PHP often occurs 3-12 hours a day for 7 days a week [1].

Basically, in PHP, recovery is your job. You typically “stay for a majority of the day, receive all meals and snacks, as well as attend all group therapy, individual therapy, nutrition, and psychiatry sessions [1].”

The next step down of treatment is in Intensive Outpatient (IOP), for those that have moved beyond the need for PHP but still need more structure. In IOP, you begin to engage more in your daily life, but it’s still a pretty stringent treatment.

Parent involvement in group therapy in Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

It generally occurs 3-7 days a week for 3 hours a day and “involves group therapy, supportive meals, as well as individual therapy and nutritional sessions during the week [1].”

After IOP, we consider Outpatient (OP) treatment. This involves living your daily life while supplementing with treatment such as therapy, nutritionist, psychiatry, and/or doctor appointments.

At the OP level, you can also engage in support groups to continue pursuing recovery.

Use Your Support

Another thing you have a plethora of is support. When leaving residential treatment, your treatment team won’t leave you in the dust. They are committed to helping you plan the next step that is best for you.

If returning to your social or familial circles is a concern for you, let your treatment team know so that they can help you consider this when planning your next move. You can do this, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Recovery Mindset

That fear we were talking about before? It is absolutely valid and understandable. But, let’s try to reframe this by considering that you cannot move closer to recovery without integrating that recovery mindset into your daily life and relationships.

Stepping down to the next stage of treatment means stepping up to recovery. And you can step-up.


[1] Lyons, L. (2017). The difference between iop and php eating disorder treatment programs. Retrieved from

About Our Sponsor:

Reasons BannerReasons Eating Disorder Center is an innovative program founded on the belief that healing is a fundamental aspect of eating disorder treatment. We believe that eating disorders are rooted in and driven by anxiety and profound disruptions to the sufferers’ sense of self. We offer our patients hope rooted in the belief that they are capable of living an authentic life of meaning and connectedness. Our goal is to create a culture that nurtures the integration of body and mind through the daily practice and continual reinforcing of the balancing ideas of Doing and Being.

About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC 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 Hope 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.

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 October 30, 2019, on
Reviewed & Approved on October 30, 2019, 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.