3 Important Questions to Ask an Eating Disorder Center Before Admission

Category: Eating Disorders
9 minute read.

When choosing a location to seek eating disorder treatment, there is no shortage of potential location options. A quick online search will likely return many program types and treatment centers to choose from. It does not take long for the various options to feel overwhelming and confusing.

Because eating disorders, like other mental health conditions, affect each person in unique ways, treatment needs to address each person’s needs with an individualized treatment plan. There are many possible treatment methodologies, and what works well for one person with Anorexia, Bulimia, or another eating disorder, may not work well (or at all) for someone else.

Whether you are researching eating disorder treatment options for yourself or for a friend or loved one, there are several important questions to ask and items to consider if you want to find the best treatment program to help you meet your recovery needs and goals. Not every program is the same, and what one program offers in terms of levels of care or therapy models will likely differ from another.

As mentioned above, recovering from an eating disorder is not a one-size-fits-all process. Someone seeking help to overcome and manage eating disorder symptoms must find a program where the therapy models available match their physical, emotional, medical, and spiritual need as they begin their recovery journey.

Because choosing the most ideal program can seem confusing, we have provided a short list of questions below you should ask about an eating disorder treatment program before deciding to begin treatment there. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it provides a jumping-off point with three very important questions. These questions may help you develop others that are unique to your concerns and needs.


What is the Experience Level of Your Treatment Staff?

Treating eating disorders, regardless of the diagnosis, is a complex mix of medical and mental health treatment. It is crucial to choose a program where the staff has experience with treatment techniques that touch on a wide range of therapy and care needs. Choosing a well-established program with experienced treatment staff may help improve your opportunity to achieve positive treatment outcomes.

Directly related to staff experience level are staff qualifications. An eating disorder treatment program that offers a full continuum of care will have staff members (medical, mental health, and support staff) who specialize in a variety of treatment fields related to eating disorder treatment. There will be several different therapists, nutritionists, and dieticians, as well as medical and mental health specialists.

Each of these treatment professionals should be fully licensed and educated in their specialty field. It helps to ask if all members of your potential treatment team are fully certified, licensed, and up to date on training for the treatment of various eating disorders. You may also want to ask if they are up to date on continuing education and ongoing training requirements.


Does Everyone Receive the Same Treatment Plan?

Eating disorders are highly individualized illnesses. While two people may have the same diagnosis accordingly to the diagnostic criteria in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, their symptoms and the challenges they face as they work to overcome their illness will vary widely. As with any mental health treatment, when it comes to treating an eating disorder, what works for someone else may not work for you.

Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder may also co-occur with other mental health conditions. For example, someone with anorexia may also have an exercise addiction or another co-occurring mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. Also, eating disorders may manifest in varying levels of severity. Because of this, when you (or a loved one ) are researching eating disorder treatment programs, it is crucial to ask the center about the steps they take to ensure each person in their care receives individualized treatment plans.

Confirming that each personalized treatment plan meets your specific treatment needs and goals is also essential. Each eating disorder treatment program has its own style of therapy. Some may focus only on treating eating disorders, whereas others may address eating disorders and other co-occurring conditions. Most treatment programs offer a variety of holistic and alternative treatments. However, the most successful and effective programs are those that combine holistic options with evidence-based treatment.

Evidence-based treatments are therapeutic models that have been proven over time. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a common example of successful evidence-based therapy for eating disorders. CBT is an effective intervention for eating disorders and a wide range of mental health and addiction treatment needs.


Other popular evidence-based therapies for eating disorders

Therapy will help you identify the feelings that have led to poor and dangerous eating habits. Many different types of psychotherapy can be provided in an eating disorder treatment program in Los Angeles. Each therapy model works differently and may offer varying success rates depending on the individual’s needs.

Family-based therapy (FBT)

During family-based therapy, family members learn to help restore healthy eating patterns and achieve a healthy weight until the individual can do it on their own. This type of treatment can be especially useful for parents learning how to help a child with an eating disorder.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy focuses on changing one’s actions rather than their thoughts and feelings. During therapy, you learn how to identify core values and commit to creating goals that will fulfill these values. ACT also encourages you to detach yourself from emotions and realize that pain and anxiety are a normal part of life, reducing their triggering potential.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

DBT is a behavioral treatment supported by empirical evidence for treating binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa. DBT assumes that changing behaviors is the most effective place to begin therapy. Therapy focuses on developing skills to replace maladaptive eating disorder behaviors.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy

The psychodynamic approach is based on the idea that recovery from an eating disorder requires understanding its root cause. Psychodynamic psychotherapists believe that behaviors arise from internal conflicts, motives, and unconscious forces. If a harmful behavior is discontinued without addressing the underlying reasons driving them, relapse will occur.

It is also essential to choose a treatment program that uses multiple therapy options. People respond differently to different treatment models, so an eating disorder treatment program that focuses on one specific style of therapy may not be as effective as one that uses multiple therapy options. Incorporating multiple evidence-based options with holistic therapies and nutritional education promotes a well-rounded, comprehensive treatment plan.

It is important essential to ask questions about the available styles of therapy and alternative treatment models so you can understand how your individualized treatment plan will help you achieve recovery.


Does Your Program Offer Aftercare Programs and Peer Support Groups?

Recovery is not a one-step process. You remain at risk of relapsing or returning to prior eating disorder behaviors even after completing treatment. There are many events, situations, or circumstances in your life that can trigger an eating disorder relapse. The most common examples are new stressors, significant life transitions, weight changes (such as from pregnancy),  physical injury, or reminders of previous traumas that once triggered eating disorder behaviors.

Relapses after eating disorder treatment happen. Research suggests up to one-third of all patients who complete treatment for anorexia or bulimia relapse within the first few years of completing a treatment program. The highest risk for relapse from anorexia nervosa occurs during the first 18 months after treatment ends. During this time, studies show up to 35% will return to eating disordered behaviors.

Treatment for bulimia nervosa typically helps most people achieve long-lasting recovery; however, relapse is common with bulimia as well. Some studies show relapse rates of up to 41% of patients returning to prior eating disorder behaviors within two years of completing treatment.

Aftercare and continuing support programs are an essential element of effective relapse prevention. It is crucial to ask a potential eating disorder treatment center what kinds of aftercare programs they offer. Many will provide some type of support group and access to online resources to help their program alumni reach out for help whenever needed. Other programs may develop “alumni programs” and specific peer support groups for program alumni. These groups allow you to maintain friendships made during the treatment process and establish a common source of support.


Get Eating Disorder Treatment Help at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center

Eating disorder treatment can take place in various settings, with programs ranging from minimally to significantly intensive, depending on the needs of the individual. From the list of questions above and through conversations with your providers, you will learn what the different levels of care mean and how they can be beneficial to helping you achieve lasting recovery. It is also helpful to understand the different types of treatment and how each may help you during your treatment journey.

As previously mentioned, there are several different treatment methods for eating disorders. Most treatment plans involve a combination of evidence-based psychological therapy (psychotherapy), alternative treatment options, nutrition education, medical monitoring, and sometimes medications. The duration of involvement or the amount of each will depend on the specific disorder and your personal needs.

At The Los Angeles Outpatient Center, we understand seeking help to overcome an eating disorder can be challenging. We also know that choosing the best treatment program that aligns most closely with your recovery goals is vital to achieving positive treatment outcomes. Finding the ideal program for you may require asking questions to learn more about each treatment center and how their treatment models can help you. Contact us today to learn more about our Los Angeles area outpatient eating disorder treatment program.