Individualized Eating Disorder Treatment

The standard treatment protocol for someone with a moderate to severe eating disorder is clear. Establish treatment with a team including a therapist, nutritionist and physician. Fully assess the medical and psychological state of the patient. Determine the appropriate level of care: outpatient team, outpatient program, residential program or hospital. Begin treatment. 

This standard approach is considered to be fairly straightforward. Like many other illnesses, the existence of a protocol implies that following the plan will lead to recovery. In the case of eating disorders, this is often not the case. 

The limited data supporting success of this treatment plan leave clinicians with their intuition and experience to make decisions rather than hard information to rely on. The promise that any step in treatment guarantees health and recovery is empty. 

The truth is that each person with an eating disorder needs an individualized treatment plan. The direction of treatment may often follow a standard protocol, but each step forward must be evaluated to see if it is right for the patient. It's not acceptable to confuse a failed treatment direction with low patient motivation. The key is to find a plan that works and not blame the person with the illness if the intervention doesn't help. 

Thus, I usually advise patients to find treatment providers they think they can trust and feel comfortable with. Also be sure this team is willing to collaborate on decision making. Having agency in one's life is essential to feel like recovery is really about wellness and life, not just following someone else's plan. Last, be sure everyone's goal is to create both recovery and a full life. Any other distractions or ulterior motives will only interfere with what recovery is all about.

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