What to expect when you go into ED treatment

If you or a loved one is considering entering treatment for an eating disorder, or ED, an important corner has already been turned. Just acknowledging that there might be a problem is a big step. Now, you need to start investigating your options – and that can feel very overwhelming.

Knowing what to expect when you enter a treatment centre can help to set a lot of anxieties to rest. With that in mind, take a look below at what people who have successfully completed in-patient programmes say they wish they had known when going in.

You’ll have a consultation first

Understanding the nature of your bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating or other ED, along with any other medical or mental issues, is critical to making sure you get the type and level of treatment that’s right for you. That’s why you’ll usually meet with a clinician before you actually enter a facility. They’ll help you decide if a centre is a good fit for you, and design your specific rehabilitation plan. They can also tell you what toiletries, clothes and other items you are allowed to, or should, bring.

You’ll complete an intake process when you arrive

To further assist the team with your care, you’ll need to fill out a detailed intake form when you arrive to check-in. This will detail your recent behaviours, thoughts and feelings, and you might also have to write down the specific reason that you’re seeking treatment. In addition, some centres will require you to write your life story (a history of your life from your perspective) to help you gain insight into yourself and your eating disorder.

You might be weighed and have bloodwork done at this time, or that might happen later. You’ll also need to hand in all your medications, your phone, money and any other electrical devices. Handing over all required items is important, and you will almost certainly be searched. After a little while in treatment, you’ll be able to ask for money if you go out, and will be allowed to use your devices in your free time.

Meals are a big part of the process

The first step in healing from an eating disorder is re-establishing a healthy relationship with food. Whether you binge, purge or starve yourself to avoid your feelings, you can’t start dealing with them until you’ve stopped that behaviour.

This is one of the most fundamental, but also one of the hardest, aspects of early recovery. To help you look at food in a healthy way, you’ll not only see a dietician but will probably eat meals with your community members and counsellors who can provide support. Often, there will be a roster so that everyone takes turns in preparing and getting comfortable with the food too.

You’ll probably share a room

While some ED treatment centres are for men or women only, they’re usually mixed. Male and female bedrooms are kept separate, but you’re likely to have at least one roommate. This is quite far out of many peoples’ comfort zones, but most report that sharing was ultimately very beneficial. You can offer and get support, and connect with other eating disorder sufferers.

Your days will be very structured

As well as sessions with dieticians, counsellors, psychiatrists and other medical professionals, you’ll be taking part in group therapy and other activities such as going on lunch outings or practising yoga. Several different types of therapy are usually available, including Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and Trauma Release Exercises. For a full list of what is available at Imani, check our blog on different therapy types.

Generally, visitors are permitted every weekday and on weekends, at specific times. Connecting with loved ones during this time can be incredibly helpful, and family therapy sessions are also likely to be included in your treatment plan. Meals will also be at regular times, and you might well be asked to journal how you felt after eating or to keep a journal in general.

You’ll get out what you put in

Remember, everything that is offered is for your recovery, so try to be open to it and accept the help that’s offered. Feeling defensive as your old coping mechanisms are challenged is to be expected, but if you can share what’s going on your support team can help you get through it. Going into treatment is never easy, but it could change your life.