Asking for Help:: Finding + Funding Eating Disorder Treatment

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eating disorder treatment, eating disorder treatment options, treatment options, eating disorder, Stephanie Ziajka, Diary of a Debutante

Once you’ve finally drummed up the courage to seek professional treatment, I would like to personally congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. You’re on your way to eating disorder recovery, and your life is about to change in the best way possible. In order to maximize your chances of selecting the most effective program, it’s crucial that you do your research and find the right treatment option for you. Here is a guide to simplify your eating disorder treatment options and resources.

Types of Treatment

There are various levels of care available for anyone seeking treatment. Although they’re not always advertised equally, it’s important that you know your options. The most common types of treatment are:

Residential Treatment, oftentimes known as RTC or rehab, entails a live-in health care in a facility dedicated to providing therapy for substance abuse or mental illness. Patients are monitored 24 hours a day for typically 30, 60, or 90 days. To find a residential eating disorder treatment center, click here or here.

Hospital or Inpatient Treatment is monitored in a unit of an inpatient hospital and is beneficial for anyone requiring urgent medical care and attention.The primary focus of this level of care is medical stabilization and interruption of weight loss, with typical stays of less than 3 weeks. Once the patient is cleared, they’re usually discharged to a residential care facility.

Partial Hospitalization Programs, also known as PHP, are non-residential treatment plans designed for patients who need structured programming without 24 hour supervision. It’s common for former inpatient or residential program participants to “step down” to this level of care because it continues to provide a high amount of structure and face-to-face support with varying levels of intensity and frequency. To find a partial hospitalization eating disorder treatment program, click here or here.

Intensive Outpatient Programs, also known as IOP, are also non-residential treatment plans designed for patients who do not require 24 hour supervision. This level of care is designed for men and women who seek structured support with the ability to remain in school or work. Programs at this level usually meet at individualized times for the participant, ranging from 2-5 days a week.  Treatment options typically include individualized therapy, personalized nutrition consultation, topic focused groups, and family support groups. To find an intensive outpatient eating disorder treatment program, click here or here.

Outpatient Treatment is the least restrictive level of care. Men and women participating in outpatient programs may see a nutritionist, therapist, and other recovery professionals approximately 2-3 times per week.  This level of care can be helpful to those who need to continue to work or attend school.  Outpatient treatment is also desirable for those who do not have the insurance to cover higher levels of care but are looking for assistance to stay in recovery. To find an outpatient eating disorder treatment program, click here or here.

Continuing Care is recommended after discharge from residential or inpatient programs when patients have the option of continuing care.  This would allow them to continue having periodic sessions with their primary therapist and nutritionist for ongoing support in recovery.  Frequency of sessions are typically determined or recommended by the overall treatment team at the higher level of care and prior to discharge.

Support Groups are an effective and cost-free self-help option for anyone in search of further treatment resources. To find a local support group near you, search for your state here. Some 12-step support groups are Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, Eating Disorders Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous. College campuses often offer anonymous support groups, as well, so contact your school’s Student Health Services department to find out what’s available to you.

Patient Types Served

Make sure you know the types of patients served at any given facility. Most facilities specialize in either adolescent or adult care, and many facilities aren’t co-gender for potential safety reasons.

Payment Options

Money shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting the treatment you need to prevent the life-threatening consequences of an eating disorder. However, an unfortunate reality is that even with insurance, mental health expenses of any kind are expensive, and not all insurance carriers cover them at all, so it’s important that you know your payment options.

Health Insurance

Many health insurance companies still don’t cover eating disorder treatment or will only provide partial payment. Even if an insurance company does cover treatment, getting the provider to pay out can be difficult and frustrating, especially in the case of services for adolescents. Here are 3 tips from Futures of Palm Beaches:

  • Make sure you understand your insurance policy. Insurance documents are rarely easy to read, and they’re almost never entertaining. But you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by learning what kinds of care and conditions your policy covers.
  • Choose an in-network provider. Treatment programs are often denied because the facility or primary doctor is out of the provider’s network. If you have any doubts about which providers are covered, contact your insurance company or work with the admissions team at the treatment facility.
  • Know your coverage limits. Most insurance policies establish a limit on the amount of coverage they will provide. Because eating disorder treatment can be lengthy, it’s important to know how long your treatment will be paid for.

In order to make the insurance process as painless as possible, the NEDA provides a handful of Insurance Resources for anyone needing assistance in looking for help, including a COBRA rights checklist and sample letters to use with insurance companies.

Community Support

If you are uninsured or cannot afford private payment, you can turn to community-based, nonprofit organizations for help. Many public mental health centers, hospitals, and private therapists offer eating disorder treatment at a very low cost or on a sliding-scale basis. Some accept Medicare or Medicaid benefits as payment. According to the Elisa Project, here are a few of the other free or low-cost treatment options available:

  • Government-based research programs
  • Psychiatry departments at teaching universities
  • School counseling departments
  • Community mental health centers

Additionally, there are scholarships available for those who qualify. You can apply for assistance from Project HEAL, The Kirsten Haglund Foundation, Manna Fund, Moonshadow’s Spirit, and The Emily Program.

Private Payment

Private payment isn’t the only way to get treatment for an eating disorder, but it may be the most effective approach if you want to maximize your options. When you self-pay for your care, you are less likely to be limited by the restrictions of an insurance provider.

Additional Options to Consider

Admissions counselors can help you explore your payment options when you discuss your treatment plan. Additional payment options to consider are:

  • Savings or retirement accounts
  • Medical loans
  • Loans from family members
  • Credit accounts
  • Sales of personal property (cars, jewelry, recreational vehicles, vacation property, etc.)


Although I have some personal experience in the matter, I am not an expert on eating disorders, nor do I claim to be. For general information, contributing factors and prevention, and other eating disorder concerns, here is a list of national organizations devoted to giving families the support they need to find answers for these life-threatening illnesses:

“When I is replaced by We, even illness becomes wellness.” As part of my personal mission for 2016, this is the first post of my Mental Health Monday blog series. Check back in weekly for new topics, and feel free to leave suggestions and questions in the comments section. Happy Mental Health Monday!


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