9 Things to Know About Virtual Eating Disorder Care

Considering virtual eating disorder treatment? This is what you need to know before you begin.

When someone is considering Eating Recovery At Home, our virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP) for eating disorders, there are often a lot of questions — which makes sense! The decision to begin treatment of any kind often comes with question marks and mixed feelings about whether treatment is right for you.  

We gathered frequently asked questions about virtual care and spoke with Casey Tallent, Ph.D., Eating Recovery Center’s (ERC) telehealth development director, about what you need to know.

1. What is intensive outpatient therapy?

Great question! Intensive outpatient therapy is a higher level of care than traditional outpatient therapy. Typically in outpatient therapy, you spend an hour a week in care with your therapist or dietitian. In intensive outpatient therapy, however, you spend about 10 hours a week in care.

“This allows you to really focus on developing better methods of coping and improving your overall mental health,” Dr. Tallent explains.

Our virtual IOP includes:

  • Three 3-hour weekly group sessions
  • One weekly individual or family therapy session
  • One weekly session with a registered dietitian

This means that, in addition to sessions with your care team, you’ll get the added benefit of group therapy. “Group therapy is an incredibly beneficial way to work together with your clinicians and a group of peers, supporting each other toward common goals,” says Dr. Tallent.

2. How do I know if virtual IOP is right for me?

If you aren’t progressing in outpatient therapy, then virtual IOP could be a great fit for you. Virtual care is best suited for folks who are computer literate and have access to a stable internet, a tablet or a computer, and a private space to take group calls.

One of the main benefits of virtual care is that it provides more flexibility than in-person care, making it possible for people who don’t live near a treatment center to access the care they need and deserve. If you’re not sure whether virtual care is a fit for you, our free assessment will help answer all your questions.

3. How will this program fit into my life?

This is a big one: Our goal with virtual care is to meet you where you are today. Since flexibility is important to many people, we provide care sessions at a variety of hours, including evenings and outside of school time. This allows our patients to continue with their daily life and responsibilities, while also prioritizing their mental and physical health.

4. How does meal support work in the eating disorder program?

In Eating Recovery At Home, we’ve carefully designed our meal support groups to be just as supportive virtually as they are in our treatment centers. Here’s what it looks like:

  • We provide three group meals a week. 
  • First, everyone takes a quick break to prepare their meal. 
  • Then, once everyone’s gathered back together, patients take a photo for clinicians and set an intention for the meal. 
  • Then it’s just casual chatting while eating, much like we would in person!

“Group members hide their own image from themselves, because no one appreciates eating in front of a mirror,” Dr. Tallent explains. “That way you can be fully focused on your intentions, your peers and the experience.”

At the end of the meal, you’ll take a completion photo for your treatment team to review. Then off to the next group session!

5. Who will be in my group therapy?

In addition to a licensed clinician, each session will include up to 11 other individuals who are in the same program and are working toward similar goals as you.

“You are in group sessions with the same peers, therapists, and dietitians -- so you develop really close connections and bonds with each member of the group,” Dr. Tallent says. “You get to share your successes together and support one another through challenges.”

6. Will my partner or loved ones be included in my care? How?

Yes! Our virtual IOP (and all our other programs) focuses on family and support system involvement. We offer family therapy sessions using emotion-focused family therapy (EFFT). We also offer a variety of resources to help parents and caregivers navigate this challenging time in their loved one’s life, including our Virtual Family & Friends Education Series. These weekly presentations help directly reinforce and relate to the clinical, therapeutic work that happens in treatment.

7. Can I continue working with my current therapist or psychiatrist?

Absolutely. We recommend that patients continue working with a therapist when possible, and our team will collaborate with your therapist to provide the best comprehensive care. This isn’t always possible, however, and when it’s not, we stay in regular contact with your outpatient providers so you can have a seamless transition back to outpatient care from IOP.

8. Who will be on my care team?

When you join our virtual IOP, you partner with a team of compassionate professionals who are committed to your recovery. Our care team includes a therapist, registered dietitian, consulting physician and care coordinator. All our staff are licensed, highly trained and experienced -- and they really care.

Take Kyle Woodson, LPC, clinical manager at Eating Recovery At Home, who says that the most rewarding part of his job is the connections he’s been able to build with fellow clinicians, patients and their families. “These connections have not only inspired me to be a better clinician, but to be a better person.” (Hear more from Kyle.)

You can meet more of our team here!

9. How do I know this program works?

Our research speaks for itself: Eating Recovery At Home participants experienced more than 50% improvement in overall eating disorder behaviors.

You can read more about the impact of our programs here.

What’s more, our leading virtual programs were recently recognized by top publications Health, Verywell Mind and Verywell Family, Parents and People as Best Online Therapy Services of 2022 and 2023, filling the “much-needed gap between inpatient treatment and casual once-a-week or twice-a-week therapy.”

Ready to get started? Call us today at 877-825-8584 or start your assessment here.

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Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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