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June 01, 2016
15 Things to Know About Outings in Eating Disorder Treatment – Dr. Jenna Flagg
young adults togetherOne of the most difficult aspects of eating disorders is that they can rob people of feelings of joy and happiness.

Outings in eating disorder treatment are effective tools helping patients move forward in treatment to life in recovery. 

Why use outings in eating disorder treatment?

When an individual enters eating disorder treatment, treatment begins with a nurturing, structured approach to help contain eating disorder behaviors. Once an individual progresses further along in treatment, it becomes important to practice new skills in the treatment setting and out in the community.

Community outings offer patients many unique benefits, such as:
  • The chance to try new things in order to see what works for them — and what doesn’t
  • A way for patients to negotiate obstacles that they might experience when they return home
  • An opportunity to have fun and experience joy
 During outings, patients can work towards a number of personal goals, like the following: Many patients go on supervised outings in eating disorder treatment while others, who have progressed further in treatment, may go on unsupervised outings (therapeutic passes).

Supervised outings in eating disorder treatment
  • Outings are an hour and a half to two hours long and can occur at any point throughout the day. Staff members accompany patients on outings.
  • Outings are often related to nutrition (eating a meal or planning and shopping for meals) or are related to practicing skills of self-care out in the community (recreational activities: bookstores, nail salons, art museums, etc.).
  • Dietitians lead meal outings and therapeutic staff members lead other outings.
  • Some outings are structured, with a given time frame and activity. Other outings offer patients the freedom to do activities independently.
  • Outings are for patients only. We ask that patients not meet up with friends or family members.
  • Goals for outings range from specific (nutrition-based) to more general (finding enjoyment and connecting with peers).
Unsupervised outings in eating disorder treatment 
  • Patients in residential and partial hospitalization programs may go out on unsupervised outings, for up to four hours, by applying for therapeutic passes. The treatment team must approve all passes (please note that pass availability differs by location).
  • Therapeutic passes are individualized and allow patients to practice skills outside of treatment.
  • Patients that take therapeutic passes may meet up with, and connect with, family members and friends.
*Please note that the above descriptions are accurate for adult patients only. In addition, outing details may vary by location. 


Jenna Flagg, Psy.D. is Clinical Director of Adult Services at Eating Recovery Center, Washington.
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