The levels of care and types of treatment used for eating disorders can be thought of as a ladder or a continuum of options. Patients/clients can move up or down these various levels based on their needs. Starting from the most intensive to least intensive, here is an explanation of the different levels of care: 1. Inpatient When is it needed? When the patient/client is medically and/or psychiatrically unstable. Medically, one either has unstable vital signs, blood tests that show significant health risks, and/or medical complications from their eating disorder and/or co-occurring health conditions like diabetes. Psychiatrically, one is unstable when their symptoms are quickly worsening and/or they are suicidal and unable to maintain their own safety. It is only available in hospital settings. In this level of care, one lives at the treatment center and eats all meals and snacks there with support.
2. Residential When is it needed? When the patient/client is medically stable and doesn’t require specialized care only available within a hospital AND the eating disorder significantly impairs functioning so the patient/client is unable to benefit from the lower level of care of partial hospitalization. In this level of care, one lives at the treatment center and eats all meals and snacks there with support. It is typically only offered in specialized residential eating disorder treatment centers, but doesn’t take place in a hospital.
3. Partial Hospitalization When is it needed? When the patient/client is medically stable and doesn’t require specialized care only available within a hospital, but still has impaired functioning like that at work or school because of their eating disorder. and still requires daily assessment of medical and mental status They are psychiatrically and medically stable but engaging in eating disorder behaviors. Despite its name, partial hospitalization is not the same thing as inpatient care; it is typically a full day of treatment. It is often used as a stepdown form of treatment for individuals following inpatient or residential treatment or as an alternative to higher levels of care like residential when outpatient care is insufficient. In this level of care, one does not live at the treatment center and may or may not eat all meals and snacks there with support. The patient/client either goes home on nights and weekends or stays at a transitional living home near the treatment center with usually a minimum of 40 hours a week spent at the treatment center. This type of treatment is typically offered at specialized treatment centers or may be available at hospitals in some cases. 4. Intensive Outpatient/Outpatient When is it needed? When a patent/client is medically stable and doesn’t require daily monitoring of medical and mental status AND psychiatrically stable without significant impairment of functioning in settings like at work or school and continuing to make progress in their recovery. This type of treatment may be found at specialized treatment centers, therapist offices, and sometimes hospitals. Treatment may be anywhere from an hour a week (outpatient) to nine hours of week (for intensive outpatient).