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By Angie Best-Boss, Contributing Writer

There is no “one size fits all” model for treating people with eating disorders. No two patients are alike. Although many of the needs of eating disorder patients are the same, individualized treatment planning is crucial to recovery. People with eating disorders may have a variety of different reasons for their illness – biological, emotional to environmental. In the same way, treating eating disorders usually requires a team approach – with assistance from counselors, psychologists, nutritionists, and other specialists.

On admission to any program, each patient should meet with members of the multidisciplinary treatment team for a comprehensive evaluation, which forms the basis of a personalized plan of care. Members of the treatment team may include:

  • Board-certified psychiatrist
  • Internal medicine physician
  • Registered psychiatric nurse
  • Registered dietitian
  • Master's level social workers
  • Certified recreation therapists

The first step of creating a treatment plan involves an assessment of the person’s history, the current symptoms presented, current physical status and determination of other psychiatric issues or disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or personality issues. Many people with an eating disorder have other psychiatric issues that also need to be addressed at the same time as the eating disorder.

Besides creating a team and choosing an appropriate treatment setting, treatment options will be considered, such as art therapy, music therapy, and the potential for psychiatric medications. At times, medications may be an appropriate choice for someone struggling with eating disorders.

Treatment - whether in-patient, in a partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs, or counseling is conducted in the least restrictive setting that can provide adequate safety. If patients have medical complications because of severe weight loss or due to the effects of bingeing and purging, they may require inpatient treatment or hospitalization. Other individuals, for whom outpatient therapy has not been effective, may benefit from day-hospital treatment, hospitalization, or residential placement.

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