Seeking Online Support for Eating Disorder Recovery

Girl using online screening tool IOI-S to check for eating disorder symptoms

Sometimes it’s not possible to receive traditional, in-person eating disorder (ED) treatment. Whether it’s because of work, school, location, transportation issues, or (as is the case recently), social distancing/quarantining due to COVID-19, life can sometimes get in the way of in-person treatment. But this doesn’t mean you have to (or should) put your recovery on hold. Here are some of the ways you can seek online support for eating disorder recovery.

When to Seek Online Support For Eating Disorder Recovery

Before diving into the different ways you can seek online support for ED recovery, it’s important to first understand when online support is (and is not) appropriate. In-person care should always be at the top of the list for those in a medically compromised situation.

Some may even require hospitalization and 24/7 medical monitoring. To decide which type of care is right for you, it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider or ED specialist to determine what level of treatment is best.

If in-person care is not an option for you right now due to life circumstances, seeking support or treatment online is a great way to start on the road to recovery. Remember, eating disorders are serious illnesses that, if left untreated, can lead to severe health complications, so seeking professional treatment early is critical [1]. And with numerous online ED support options today, no obstacle should stand in your way of getting help.

Another great reason to seek online support for eating disorder recovery is when you’re transitioning down from a higher level of care. You might have recently been released from hospitalization or residential treatment, or maybe you’ve decreased your weekly in-person therapy sessions. During these transition times, online support can be a great tool to keep you on the recovery road.

Finally, eating disorder recovery is often a long journey with many turns and twists. Having ongoing support and community around you throughout the entire process can help keep you on the road to recovery. So if you graduated from your treatment center program or are no longer going to treatment every week, having the ongoing support and help from an online group/program is an excellent way to support your long-term recovery.

Eating Disorder Online Support Groups

The first type of online care for eating disorder recovery is support groups. Online support groups are a safe and supportive place to pursue recovery and build a community around a common goal of eating disorder recovery.

Typically led by a trained eating disorder professional, online support groups usually meet virtually once or twice a week for approximately an hour. During this time, the ED specialist may provide you with practical tools to support your recovery at home and will most likely give group members the opportunity to share their recovery successes and struggles.

Online support groups are not a replacement for therapy or counseling but can be a great resource for encouragement, accountability, and support during ED recovery. If you’re interested in finding an online support group, here are some resources to get you started:

Eating Disorder Treatment Offered Online

Lady using laptop for Online Support for Eating Disorder RecoveryMany eating disorder recovery centers now offer online treatment options. Virtual ED treatment is ideal for anyone who is medically stable and is unable to receive in-person care. Online ED treatment offers flexibility and convenience while still providing a structured, focused, and high-quality treatment experience.

There are two main levels of care offered in online eating disorder treatment, virtual Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), and virtual Partial-Hospitalization Programs (PHP).

Virtual IOP Programs

Virtual IOP programs typically use the same treatment modalities and offer similar care and support as in-person IOP programs. The only difference with virtual IOP is that everything is conducted online. You can still expect to take part in individual and group therapy sessions and receive daily meal support.

Typically, virtual IOP consists of 2-3 hour sessions, 3-7 days each week. The treatment team may include a registered dietitian, a psychologist, a psychotherapist, and a psychiatrist.

Virtual PHP Programs

The other level of ED treatment offered online is the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). PHP is typically a more advanced level of care than IOP. Virtual PHP may consist of 3-5 hour sessions 5-7 days each week. During this time, you’ll receive structure and support for recovery through group therapy sessions, individual counseling, and coached meals.

The virtual PHP treatment team should include registered dietitians, therapists, and other ED specialists. Most treatment centers offering online PHP and IOP require staff to undergo specialized training and receive accreditation to practice telehealth. This ensures their virtual programs offer the level of care and support needed during ED recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, but in-person care is not an option right now, don’t let that stop you from seeking professional treatment. From numerous online support groups to virtual IOP and PHP programs, there are many ways to seek online support for eating disorder recovery.


[1] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, July 14). Eating disorder treatment: Know your options. Mayo Clinic.

About the Author:

Sarah Musick PhotoSarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.

Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.

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 August 17, 2020, on
Reviewed & Approved on August 17, 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.