The Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders

 As with any important decision in life, choosing the right treatment option for an eating disorder (ED) comes down to need and lifestyle.  Factors such as the severity of the ED, finances, and family/work/academic obligations will determine whether an individual is in need of intensive inpatient care, basic outpatient services, or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP is at the center of the treatment spectrum for an eating disorder, an elevation above basic outpatient services that may not provide enough structure or breadth in services to adequately address the needs of the client.  Intensive outpatient programs often fulfill the needs of a patient just discharged from an inpatient program, allowing for some independence without sacrificing the important treatment elements they have become accustomed to while in a residential program.

The various treatment levels of care for an ED include:

Inpatient residential treatment:  A dedicated residential treatment facility is indicated if the disorder is deeply entrenched and life threatening, where physical and/or psychological instability may require acute hospitalization.  An example of this would be a serious eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, that has impacted vital organs and has caused serious damage to the body.  An inpatient treatment program can offer cardiac monitoring, IV fluids to restore electrolyte balance, and medications for anxiety, depression, and agitation.

Intensive outpatient program:  An IOP is often utilized for patients coming from a residential program, once mental and physical health are stabilized.  Mental health providers have determined their symptoms to be under control and the patients are considered able to function in their daily lives while continuing to progress in recovery.

The Intensive Outpatient Program option is also a step-up in care for those with progressive eating disorders not managed sufficiently in a basic outpatient program.  For these clients, despite working with an outpatient team a couple of times a week, the basic services do not provide enough continuity and structure to produce a stable recovery from their eating disorder.

Basic outpatient services:  A basic outpatient program (BOP) typically offers services two days a week for those with newly formed eating disorders who do not meet the criteria for a higher level of care.  The BOP will offer treatment management and group therapy, but does not offer adjunct treatment services such as art and music therapy, equine therapy, meal therapy, or body image classes.

Teen IOP versus Adult IOP

 The stage of life an individual is in when they seek treatment can dictate not only their scheduling needs, but also the content of the program itself.  Because of the differing demands and responsibilities between an adult and a teen, it is helpful to find an IOP designed accordingly.  Casa Serena offers intensive outpatient programs exclusively, thus making us specialists in this level of care.  Therefore, we have created effective programs designed to accommodate the specific needs of both teens and adults.

Adult IOP:

An IOP designed for adults accommodates the need for the client to continue to work at their job, whether inside or outside the home.  Some adults who have parenting responsibilities may need to be present during the day for their children, while others simply cannot take time off of their jobs.  For adults, an evening program like the one offered at Casa Serena—four hours per evening, four days a week—is a perfect fit.  In the adult program, the client will learn better ways to manage anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem, factors often at the root of the disordered eating habits.  By addressing the underlying issue that fuels the disorder, the clients are taught new coping skills to overcome it.  The adult treatment components include:

  • Classes in body image, nutrition, and living skills
  • Group therapy (4 per month)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Yoga and mindfulness group (2 per month)
  • Supportive meal groups (4 per month)

Teen IOP:

For teens aged 13-18, the IOP must take their school schedules and academic obligations into account.  Because of this, Casa Serena offers a program that meets after school hours four days a week for four hours, but allows the teen plenty of time in the evening to tackle homework.  The teen years are especially challenging, with emotions running high, hormone shifts, and plenty of peer pressure that can all trigger disordered eating patterns.  With a focus on helping the teens overcome destructive behaviors and developing new coping skills, our teen program helps them manage the issues that drive their eating disorder.  The teen program treatment components include:

  • Individual counseling appointments daily
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Group therapy (2 per month)
  • Yoga and mindfulness group (2 per month)
  • Classes in nutrition, body image, living skills
  • Expressive arts
  • Multi-family group

Casa Serena can Help

Casa Serena provides a well-rounded, comprehensive IOP that is designed for the demands in the client’s life, be they an adult or a teen.  Our expert clinicians treat all clients with the compassion and support necessary to overcome an eating disorder.  Call us today for details about our programs at (925) 682-8252.