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Blog contributed by: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC and Crystal Karges, RDN, IBCLC of Eating Disorder Hope

Entering treatment for an eating disorder is the first step toward finding healing, recovery and well being. Once you have made the decision to begin treatment however, how do you decide what level of treatment is best for you? Navigating through the various treatment options can be overwhelming, especially in the throes of an eating disorder. According to the Eating Disorder Coalition, eating disorders can be successfully and fully treated to complete remission, but only 1 in 10 individuals with eating disorders receive treatment. While treatment time can vary from months to years, early intervention with evidenced-based care is improving the outcomes for a new generation of patients [1]. Understanding the common levels and types of eating disorder treatment can better prepare you or a loved one for what may be ahead in your recovery journey.

Typically, the initial level of treatment for an eating disorder will be determined by the severity of the symptoms and threat to one’s help. Also, consideration will be given to whether any co-occurring disorders are involved, such as anxiety or substance abuse. Health professionals at each level of care can adequately assess if differing treatment is necessary and make referrals as needed. These are the common levels of care for eating disorder treatment, beginning with the least restrictive:

Deciding on the appropriate level of treatment for an eating disorder is a decision that should be made with the support of trusted loved ones and health professionals who are involved in care, such as a primary care physician or therapist/counselor. Many factors may play a part in the level of care for eating disorder treatment, such as current health status and insurance coverage. At any level of care provided, treatment programs should offer services that fulfill the needs of each individual and support the stage of recovery they may be in. Accepting help and treatment for an eating disorder may be the most difficult step in beginning your recovery journey; however, this may be the most powerful step in overcoming your eating disorder and finding a life of freedom.


[1]: Eating Disorder Coalition, “Facts About Eating Disorders: What the Research Shows”.