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15 Things to Know About Outings in Eating Disorder Treatment

By Jenna Flagg, PsyD
Find out why Eating Recovery Center uses outings in eating disorder treatment. Dr. Jenna Flagg of ERC, Washington explains the benefits and purpose.
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One 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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Jenna Flagg, PsyD
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Jenna Flagg, PsyD

Jenna Flagg, PsyD, received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She is currently licensed as a psychologist in the state of Washington. Jenna completed her post-doctoral residency at the Renfrew Center of Florida, a residential treatment center for women with eating disorders. Following her residency, she spent several years at the Renfrew Center working as both a therapist and treatment team leader.

Prior to becoming the Senior Clinical Director at Eating Recovery Center, West, Jenna was a Primary Therapist. Jenna has extensive experience supervising students, interns and residents who have a desire to gain knowledge and experience in the field of eating disorders. The therapeutic orientation she was trained in cognitive behavioral, but she is currently uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and this year is doing intensive training in RO-DBT well.

Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center are 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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