3 Steps To Prepare for Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

Residential treatment for eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, ARFID, OSFED, or anorexia nervosa comes in many varieties, at various treatment centers around the country. However, although the programs often differ greatly in their scope, incoming clients should be ready to make this change in their lives by learning more about what residential eating disorder treatment entails. It is possible to prepare for eating disorder treatment by taking three simple but important steps.

1. Have a dialogue with the treatment center before admitting

Residential treatment can be imposing; you’re taking a major step in recovery, but you’re also removing yourself from your daily life for a month or more – a bit of fear is totally normal. Thankfully, the staff at an eating disorder treatment center is used to helping nervous people please take the next steps. Most centers have dedicated admissions specialists who can outline the programs and assuage those anxieties, which means they are capable of sharing the details of their program. They say knowing is half the battle – the admissions specialists will be able to provide that knowledge to the potential client and their family.

They will not consider questions about the program or what to expect a bother. In fact, they will welcome such questions. Potential clients should ask about several things; among many others, they should ask about meal times and structures, exercise programs, what kinds of therapy to expect, living and bedroom situations, whether they will have a roommate, what kind of medical and psychiatric support will be available, and what privileges and privacy are allowed to the residents.

Most treatment centers can offer an information packet to upcoming residents to check out, or offer a virtual or in-person tour. The information packet should contain all the fundamental information that one needs to know about the program that they are going to attend. Of course, there will be more questions in virtually every situation.The admission specialists or other staff can provide some clarification on the phone, but follow-up calls might be necessary to get to the bottom of more esoteric questions. 

2. Make a list of questions to go over with the admissions team

It can be a little overwhelming to process all the possible information in one sitting. Before or after your first call with an admissions specialist, you should make a list of questions you have about residential eating disorder treatment. Some examples and FAQs include:

  • How long is the program? 30 days, longer, or a case-by-case basis?
  • What are the residential rooms like – are there roommates, shared bathrooms, etc.?
  • How often can the resident expect to be able to visit with loved ones?
  • What therapeutic methods are available?
  • What kind of medical support is there?
  • What is a day like at the facility for residents?
  • What is the surrounding location like?
  • What should the upcoming resident bring with them to the facility?
  • How does the staff at the facility measure progress in the program?

You should also consider specialty questions. For instance, you may wish to know if the center is female-only or adolescent-only, or whether the program is geared to service LGBTQ populations. If the program is serving a specific group, those attending might want to verify exactly how the process works—like if it is a program for women, does that mean that all the staff will be women as well?

It can be helpful to write out a list of questions beforehand, possibly over a period of days while the upcoming resident and their family ponder the treatment program. When they feel like they have a comprehensive list of questions, they can contact the program to get the answers they seek.

3. Make sure the person attending treatment asks questions, especially if they’re adolescent

Often, the one who is attending a residential eating disorder treatment program is being helped by loved ones to find their ideal center and prepare for recovery. Because eating disorders strike early, it’s not unusual for the upcoming resident to be a teenager or young adult patient. In these situations, it’s important for his or her voice to be heard above all others.

Whoever is going to be attending the program should have the opportunity to ask all the questions that they want to ask, preferably directly to the treatment center staff. They should be encouraged to create their own list of questions that they can then ask the treatment center staff. By ensuring that the one who is attending the program gets the information they want and need, the family can ease the transition to the residential facility. 

By encouraging the upcoming resident to speak with the staff they will be interacting with later, the family can help the individual feel more comfortable with those that will treat them. Questions and conversation can be a wonderful ice breaker for the upcoming stay.