We have updated our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. By using this website, you consent to our Terms and Conditions.


Can Outpatient Eating Disorder Treatment Really Work?

As patients search for the right eating disorder treatment for their unique needs, it’s important to remember that this is a long-term process involving a potentially life-threatening illness. Depending on the type of treatment and therapy work that an individual chooses, they could find themselves working towards a full recovery for up to 2 years or more. While there are a variety of different treatment options available to individuals with eating disorders, including inpatient and outpatient programs, most eating disorder treatments are offered on an outpatient basis.

What Is Inpatient Treatment?

Inpatient treatment is a popular treatment program option for people with eating disorders, where patients are provided with 24-hour care in a live-in facility. During this time, patients will have access to both physical health assistance and psychiatric care. In most cases, patients will spend several months in inpatient care but before they can be accepted into one of these treatment programs, they may need to complete various assessments by staff and other trained medical professionals.

One of the biggest differences individuals will find with inpatient care vs. outpatient care is the amount of medical attention they receive or have access to. With inpatient treatment, patients can expect to be placed under medical supervision. In the case of eating disorder treatment, the program is designed to closely monitor positive or negative health levels. For example, if a patient’s health is declining, the inpatient facility is equipped to provide patients with additional medical care and access to hospital care if needed.

Inpatient care is effective in providing a very structured atmosphere, which can be beneficial in treating a number of common eating disorders. This structured setting is designed to help patients forget about everyday worries and instead focus on physical and psychological healing.

What Is Outpatient Treatment?

Outpatient eating disorder counseling is another treatment option that is ideal for patients who may have work or school obligations that are keeping them from entering an inpatient treatment program. Outpatient treatment programs vary depending on the type of facility and each individual’s needs, but most meet several times each week for a few hours at a time.

There are also more involved types of outpatient treatment for eating disorders that work individuals along with family and friends in counseling sessions. Additionally, more simple forms of outpatient treatment for eating disorders can involve meeting with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.

Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient counseling doesn’t typically address an individual’s nutritional needs or current medical conditions. During inpatient treatment, patients will find that everything they need is provided in one location. Alternatively, outpatient treatment is more flexible, allowing individuals to work with a network of care professionals. For patients who cannot afford to attend an inpatient program that may take them away from work or school for months at a time, outpatient eating disorder treatment is a helpful option.

Common Eating Disorders

If someone thinks they may have an eating disorder, a good place to start is to ask what percentage of the day they spend thinking about food, weight and body image. If the answer reveals that so much time is spent thinking about these factors that they detract from happiness and everyday functions, there could be an issue. According to The American Psychiatric Association, some of the most common eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa– Anorexia nervosa is characterized by behavior that limits overall calorie intake, leading to a significantly low body weight. Persons with anorexia nervosa typically show an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight. It is also very common for those with anorexia nervosa to struggle with recognizing the reality or seriousness of their current weight and the inability to see that they are underweight.
  • Bulimia Nervosa– This common eating disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of binge eating and purging. This process can then lead to behaviors that try to “make up” for the large amounts of food eaten by fasting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting and/or the use of laxatives or diuretics.
  • Binge Eating Disorder– This eating disorder is also defined by recurrent episodes of binge eating. These binge eating episodes may include eating much more food than normal, eating until an individual feels uncomfortably full, eating food much more rapidly than normal, eating large amounts of food when “bored” or not physically hungry, eating meals alone due to embarrassment, guilty feelings or feelings of depression after binge eating.

Common Treatment Options for Eating Disorders

As individuals consider the treatment options available to them, it is important to remember that different people will respond to different types of treatment, even if they are experiencing similar issues. There are a variety of different types of treatment for eating disorders that have proved to be effective. In most cases, these are not stand-alone treatments and many patients will work through a combination of treatments as part of the recovery process.

Offered in both inpatient and outpatient eating disorder programs, some of the most common types of treatment available today include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT
  • Family-Based Psychotherapies
  • Nutritional Management
  • Self-Help Approach (a form of CBT)
  • Medication-Based Approaches
  • Complementary Therapy (medication, yoga, mindfulness-based therapy, etc.)

Choosing Between Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

The behaviors that characterize some of the most common eating disorders can devastate a person’s life and the lives of their loved ones. However, there are effective treatment options available for those who need them. There are 5 standard levels of care recognized in eating disorder treatment, including general outpatient care, intensive outpatient treatment, partial hospital, residential treatment (or inpatient treatment) and inpatient hospitalization. Each different type of treatment has a number of pros and cons that should be examined.

Exhibiting eating disorder symptoms like those characterized by anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa for a number of years can complicate the recovery process, making early intervention extremely crucial for young teens and adolescents. But not every patient will benefit from the same program.

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

As individuals consider which type of treatment may be best suited to their needs, it is important to remember the benefits that each program has to offer. With outpatient care, patients will be provided with a number of different resources for counseling, medication support and more – all while living at home. They can continue to be as active as possible at work or in school. This type of treatment option is typically best for patients who are living with more mild forms of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa and those who have already completed an inpatient program.

People in outpatient counseling may rely on family and friends to help during recovery. They should also look into an eating disorder counseling center that is near their home or office to ensure that it is easy to make each appointment. Enrollment in an outpatient program means that patients must go to each and every appointment. Missing just one appointment can make it hard to stay on track. Individuals who have trouble traveling often or those who live far away from their nearest treatment facility may need to consider other options.

Outpatient care also makes it much easier to hold down a job, making it an ideal option for those who support a family. Both female and male eating disorder treatment centers often offer a number of different outpatient programs in an effort to help adults maintain their home life. The National Eating Disorders Alliance reports that people of all ages respond well to outpatient eating disorder treatment.

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

People with longstanding eating disorder-related symptoms may respond well to inpatient programs. This is due in large part to the many severe medical consequences that are associated with common eating disorders. For example, kidney damage is a common medical issue associated with bulimia nervosa. Often caused by the excessive use of laxative and/or self-induced vomiting, chemical imbalances in the body can lead to kidney damage. However, these chemical imbalances can be corrected with a proper diet, medication or both.

Depending on the severity and type of eating disorder, inpatient treatment can provide patients with a life-saving intervention. The structured atmosphere of inpatient treatment is also designed to help individuals avoid common relapse “triggers” that they may come up against in an outside setting. Everything from diet to exercise and social situations can be difficult to navigate during the early stages of treatment and for many patients, the idea of 24-hour care may be a safer option. Even a computer or cell phone can act as a temptation for people with severe eating disorder symptoms but these temptations are not available in most inpatient treatment programs.

Eating Disorder Treatment Near You

At Monte Nido, we offer a variety of different eating disorder treatment options. We provide residential treatment for women, day treatment programs for men and women and residential treatment for girls aged 13-18 (and 17 in certain states). We understand that each person is different and that eating disorders can affect people in many different ways. We also understand that an individual’s needs can vary greatly throughout the recovery process. As individuals search for the right treatment program to meet their medical, psychiatric and lifestyle needs it is important to keep a few key factors in mind:

  • Remember that both inpatient and outpatient care have a variety of benefits.
  • Inpatient treatment is more structured and provides patients with 24-hour access to care.
  • Outpatients treatment is more flexible and may be ideal for those who need to continue with work and/or school.
  • Inpatient treatment can be very beneficial for those who have more severe eating disorder-related symptoms and may have a difficult time navigating common triggers.
  • There is no such thing as a single perfect eating disorder treatment program. In fact, many patients will benefit from a combination of complementary treatment programs as they work toward recovery.
  • If an individual is considering outpatient treatment, location and accessibility are paramount. In most cases, missing just one appointment can greatly inhibit the success of the treatment program.

Contact Monte Nido Today

We are dedicated to helping our clients find the tools necessary to continue on the path to full recovery. Founded in 1996 by Carolyn Costin, we provide the highest level of care to our patients in a home-like setting. As the first founder of a program who was open about her own recovery, Carolyn wanted to provide clients with, “…a beautiful environment and a loving empathetic staff, who would know when to challenge and when to nurture.”

Our treatment philosophy and post-treatment transitional programs are designed to provide patients with the knowledge and ability they need to make choices that will help them move toward a healthy lifestyle. Want to learn more about the different inpatient and outpatient treatment options available at our eating disorder counseling centers? For more information about Monte Nido, please call 855.265.1958 or visit our website today. You can also connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.