By Kate Fisch, LCSW

When you and your loved one have decided to seek out treatment for an eating disorder, time is of the essence.  Because eating disorder thoughts and behaviors are often so intense, motivation to recover is fragile and perhaps even fleeting.  That being said, however, choosing the right treatment program is absolutely essential to setting up your child for success in recovering from their eating disorder.  With 100s of programs available in the United States and the clock ticking, finding the best program for your child and their individual needs can feel overwhelming.  Here are 8 questions to ask when considering an eating disorder recovery treatment program that will hopefully help you narrow down your choices.

Questions to ask when deciding on a treatment center:


  1. Is the program you are considering an accredited treatment center?

When considering treatment for yourself or your loved one, you want to ensure that any program you are looking into has been accredited by the CACREP or JCAHO.  These two agencies conduct an extensive investigation into the quality of the treatment center and are only approved when the highest of set standards have been met by the treatment program.


  1. Does the program you are looking into accept your health insurance?

The cost of eating disorder treatment can be high, as much as $2000 a day depending on the program and level of care necessary.  Many treatment centers accept major health insurance plans and if you have a corresponding plan with mental health benefits, this could help cover a lion’s share of the cost of treatment.  The treatment program you are looking into should be able to contact your health insurance provider to get more information about your benefits.


  1. Where is the program located?

Sadly, there are not always quality treatment programs available close to home.  If you do not live in a major metropolitan area or close by, you might need to look out-of-state for an eating disorder treatment program.  Be sure to choose one that is within a reasonable driving distance or is close to a major airport.  Sending your loved one far away is difficult, however, the quality of the treatment center in combination with “goodness of fit” for your loved one is so important for eating disorder recovery.  Just make sure it is located in a place where you can travel with some relative ease for family participation.


  1. Evaluate the program’s “goodness-of-fit” for your loved one.

Goodness-of-fit refers to the personal needs of your unique child.  Eating disorder recovery programs are not one size fits all and finding a program that best fits your child as an individual is vital for successful recovery.  For example, some residential programs utilize equine therapy as a primary intervention.  If your child is allergic to horses, this could be a major obstacle to getting the most out of their treatment stay.  Perhaps your child thrives in nature; be sure to find a program centered on the outdoors rather than a major metropolitan setting.


  1. How does the program include family members during the course of treatment?

Most programs include family therapy as part of the big picture treatment plan, but level of involvement can vary depending on the treatment center.  Having support from loved ones and family members is crucial for sustained recovery post treatment, so be sure to choose a program that includes the family/loved ones as part of the treatment process.


  1. What is the patient to therapist ratio?

Participating in a treatment program for eating disorder recovery is intense work and much support is needed.  It is important to ask about therapist and other treatment team provider’s caseloads to ensure that they will have the availability when your loved one needs support.


  1. Will my child be able to continue with their school work?

Although medical stabilization if necessary and reduction in eating disorder behaviors will be the top priority during early treatment, it is important to consider how your child will stay on top of their schoolwork.  Some treatment centers coordinate directly with your child’s school and can facilitate remote learning.  Other residential and inpatient facilities actually have educators on staff that take over the academic needs of your child while participating in the treatment program.  Be sure to ask the intake coordinator what is available before admission.


  1. Does the program offer Aftercare programming?

Even though a patient might have completed a treatment program and is ready to return home, this does not mean their work is done.  Recovering from an eating disorder is an ongoing process and you and your loved one will need continued support.  Look for a treatment program that offers “alumni groups” or virtual aftercare support groups so that they can stay connected to their treatment team and even peer support during those fragile first few weeks transitioning back into home life.