What Can I Expect from an Inpatient Treatment Center for an Eating Disorder?

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All inpatient treatment centers offer a slightly different experience, but the care they provide is similar in many ways. Inpatient eating disorder treatment provides the highest level of care outside of a hospital setting, for example, and many use standard inpatient eating disorder treatment.

There are many important differences, though. Some inpatient eating disorder treatment centers provide gentle, personalized treatment under the care of doctors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, and counselors. Others may not provide that level of care. 

About 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States have eating disorders. If you are female, you may benefit from women’s inpatient treatment. While men can develop eating disorders, women are more likely to experience them. Women’s inpatient treatment focuses on the special needs of many women with eating disorders experience. 

The National Eating Disorders Association (​NEDA) says that inpatient treatment is appropriate for medically or psychiatrically unstable patients.

Whether you choose a women’s inpatient treatment or inpatient treatment centers that serve both men and women, you can expect compassionate treatment and effective care for eating disorders.

What to Expect on Your First Day

Compassionate professionals will guide you through the recovery process. Soon after you arrive for inpatient eating disorder treatment, you will meet a number of key people. A nurse will perform a physical assessment and order lab tests, for example, and a doctor will perform a medical examination, review complications of eating disorders and address any medical conditions that may influence treatment. You may meet your treatment team that may consist of psychiatrist, therapist, and dietitian. This individualized attention focuses on seeing each patient as a human first, with unique challenges and gifts, and who will take a unique journey towards recovery.

The first day typically includes a tour of the facilities so you know where things are and feel more comfortable. You might also consult with a business office representative to discuss payment, insurance benefits, and other financial details.

What to Expect from Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment

Inpatient treatment centers can offer a wide range of daily experiences. Daily medical assessments and monitoring help evaluate your progress and keep you on the road to recovery. Eating disorders don’t happen from 9 to 5, so 24-hour access to psychiatrists allows you to get help at any time of day or night – whenever you need it.

You can expect weekly medical appointments to assess and monitor your progress, and to identify any complications before they become a larger problem.


Thorough medical and psychiatric management through daily therapy sessions help you make consistent progress towards your goals. Because of the complexity of eating disorders, inpatient eating disorder treatment is often a multifaceted approach that includes different types of therapy.

Daily group therapy sessions provide opportunities to connect with others and to discuss solutions for common problems. Other daily therapies may include cognitive behavioral therapy that addresses many of the behavioral issues associated with eating disorders. High-frequency individual therapy sessions through the stay help guide you through your personalized treatment plan.

Acceptance and commitment therapy can help you open up to unpleasant feelings and react to those feelings appropriately; dialectical behavioral skills training provides new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict. Body image therapy can help you stop blaming yourself or your body, and recognize the complex body image issues that may have led to the development of an eating disorder. Some inpatient eating disorder treatment centers offer specialized approaches to therapy, such as expressive art therapy.

Eating and Nutrition Therapy

You can expect a thoughtfully implemented meal plan based on your specific nutritional medical needs and your personal preference. Participating in pre- and post-meal process groups before and after meals can help build awareness of internal cues regarding your hunger and fullness.

Depending on the programs offered, you may learn mindful eating, which helps you develop a balanced and sustainable relationship with the food you eat. This approach to daily exposure therapy is psychologically gentle, yet effective.

Regular individual nutrition therapy with a registered dietitian can help you build a sustainable approach to eating. Participating in weekly cooking groups, with staff support, teaches you how to prepare nutritious meals.

Towards the end of your inpatient eating disorder treatment, you can expect to participate in relapse prevention that helps you avoid “slips.” Relapse prevention in inpatient eating disorder treatment helps you develop coping strategies you can use during times of crisis.




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