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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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How to choose the best eating disorder treatment program for your needs

When it comes to choosing an eating disorder treatment program, people’s specific needs may vary. A program that might work for your friend may not be the best choice for you, and that’s okay. What matters is that you receive the right care for you that takes your unique needs, treatment priorities, and experiences into consideration.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
May 3, 2024
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In this article

App-based recovery

Online therapy sessions
Meal kit deliveries
Remote vitals monitoring

We will help get the most out of your insurance.

8 things to consider when choosing eating disorder programs 

When comparing eating disorder programs, there are many factors you’ll want to take into account in order to find a program that meets your needs and is accessible to you in terms of time, cost, and competencies. Here are eight things to consider when choosing an eating disorder program.

1. Eating disorder program location

Location is an important consideration when choosing an eating disorder program, as it will affect things like cost, comfort, and family support during treatment. Some people may prefer to stay close to home for care, while others may not have that option. Depending on where you live, it may be possible to receive in-person eating disorder treatment at various levels of care in or near your city. For other people, especially those in more rural areas, it may be necessary to travel to get the care you need. 

This may also be true for individuals who have other co-occurring physical or mental illnesses, less common types of eating disorders, or need treatment with a specific focus that not every program specializes in. The good news is that virtual care options are also available, for access to specialized care, without the cost of travel. 

2. Virtual care programs for eating disorders

Years ago, you wouldn’t have even had the choice to attend a virtual or online eating disorder treatment program, but technology has made that option not only available but an excellent alternative to in-person care. If you have obligations and responsibilities that you can’t put on hold to attend treatment, you may want to consider a virtual treatment program, such as Within Health. Virtual treatment is also beneficial for those who experience geographical barriers to eating disorder treatment, such as those who live in rural areas or those without reliable transportation. (1)

A virtual care program, like the one offered at Within, allows you to receive the care you need, exactly whenever, and wherever you need it. Care partners can virtually support you during grocery or clothing shopping outings, as well as during mealtimes with designated meal plans provided by the nutrition team. Virtual care programs for eating disorders provide flexibility in care, as well as the comfort of being treated from your own home, which is unique from brick and mortar program locations. 

3. Eating disorder program rules

Whether you choose in-person treatment, such as a residential or inpatient program, or a virtual care program like the program offered at Within, you will want to consider each program’s rules. Some allow visitors during treatment while others do not. Some include family members in their care, while others do not. Some are very strict when it comes to what you can bring to treatment while others are a bit more lenient. 

If you have specific sensory needs, or accessibility needs, make sure to discuss them with any treatment program you are considering to make sure they will be able to accommodate them. 

Some examples of sensory needs may include wearing headphones, being able to hold a fidget toy during meals or stressful therapy sessions, or avoiding scented products. (2) Additionally, if you follow any specific religious, cultural, or ethical dietary needs, it is important to discuss these things as well. Be as specific as you can when talking to an admissions professional at an eating disorder treatment program, so you can make sure all of your needs will be met. 

Person looking for an eating disorder program

4. Eating disorder program philosophy or approach

Eating disorder treatment programs may vary in their treatment philosophy or approach. For instance, some programs take a holistic approach to recovery, treating the whole person, mind, body, and spirit. These programs may integrate complementary and alternative interventions into treatment planning, such as yoga, mindfulness, acupuncture, and equine therapy.

Different eating disorder programs also may feature different therapy modalities including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), art therapy, and drama therapy. (3) If you have had positive or negative experiences with different modalities and philosophies of recovery in the past, it can be helpful to research programs that will provide the most effective approaches for you.

5. Eating disorder program specialities 

Some eating disorder treatment programs may specialize in treating specific conditions or specific populations. For example, if you have avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) or binge eating disorder, you may want to choose a program with significant experience in treating this particular eating disorder. Likewise, if you are a transgender person and don’t feel comfortable working with a non-trans competent clinician, you may be able to find a treatment program or treatment provider that specializes in treating trans individuals.

6. Eating disorder program amenities and features

Every treatment program offers different amenities and features, and the right program for your needs will have offerings that are important to you. For example, if yoga is a big part of your life, you may want to find a treatment program that integrates yoga or mindful movement into treatment planning. If you are an artist, you may find a program that offers art therapy to be highly beneficial for you. 

Did you know you could be treated at home?

Within Health offers an intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization program for eating disorders—both of which can be done remotely from your home, college, wherever you are. Call us today to learn more about the treatment program, what to expect, and insurance options.

Call (866) 293-0041

7. The cost of the eating disorder program 

For many people seeking eating disorder treatment, cost is the most significant factor that impacts treatment program selection. The high cost of many treatment programs can have a major impact on what type, location, and duration of treatment is available to you. When comparing eating disorder treatment programs, you’ll want to consider the cost of each program and whether they offer financing options, such as sliding scale fees, payment plans, treatment scholarships, and beyond. 

8. Which insurance is accepted at the eating disorder program

If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, you will want to find an eating disorder treatment program that accepts your insurance, which can dramatically reduce your out-of-pocket treatment costs. 

It is important to confirm with both the treatment program or provider and your insurance company that both your insurance carrier and your specific insurance plan are accepted. You can ask both individual providers and treatment programs for a reasonable estimate of what your out-of-pocket costs for both an intake and treatment will look like before you commit to working with them, and can use this information to compare your options.

Make a list of treatment priorities

If you are feeling overwhelmed about choosing the right treatment program for your needs, try writing down a list of your priorities and preferences when it comes to eating disorder care. Once you have your list laid out in front of you, you can research which treatment providers and programs are accessible to you that best meet your needs. Making a list of questions to ask all potential providers and programs, calling each of them and taking notes, then comparing answers, can help you get as much information as possible to make the best informed decision of where to seek care.

Remember, even if you don’t have a lot of local options, there are incredible virtual care programs like the one at Within, available to help.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Maglia, M., Corello, G., & Caponnetto, P. (2021). Evaluation of the Effects of Telepsychotherapy in the Treatment and Prevention of Eating Disorders in Adolescents. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(23), 12573. 
  2. Saure, E., Lepistö-Paisley, T., Raevuori, A., & Laasonen, M. (2022). Atypical sensory processing is associated with lower body mass index and increased eating disturbance in individuals with anorexia nervosa. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13
  3. Kass, A. E., Kolko, R. P., & Wilfley, D. E. (2013). Psychological treatments for eating disorders. Current opinion in psychiatry, 26(6), 549–555.


Is inpatient or outpatient better?

Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs both have their benefits. Virtual care programs are another great option, providing the flexibility of outpatient care, with the hands-on nature of in-person care. 

Are eating disorders treatable?

Yes, eating disorders are highly treatable. Although there is no “cure,” people in eating disorder treatment can heal their relationships with food, movement, and their bodies in order to live a happier, healthier life, in recovery. 

What is the first priority when treating an eating disorder?

The first priority is to receive a comprehensive eating disorder assessment and biopsychosocial evaluation so that your treatment team can create a treatment plan tailored to address your unique needs, challenges, and stressors.

What factors should you consider when choosing eating disorder treatment?

When choosing an eating disorder program, you’ll want to consider cost, location, insurance coverage, program rules, the program specialty, treatment approach, and amenities and features.

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