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Residential Eating Disorder Treatment: What to Expect on Your First Day

Daughter hugging her mom goodbye.

Written by: Adrianna Winston and Jesse Petrecz
Day of Admissions Coordinators, The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia-Spring Lane

Entering residential eating disorder treatment can be a highly emotional experience, especially if you’ve never done anything like it before. Here’s what to expect on day one.

Daughter hugging her mom goodbye.Starting residential treatment for your eating disorder is a big step toward recovery. It has the potential to be the first step toward a healthier life.

As you look ahead to beginning treatment, it is natural for it to feel overwhelming. Having an idea of what your first day will be like can help prepare you for your journey to recovery. In this article, we share a few things you can expect.

Residential Treatment: A Thorough Explanation of What to Expect Your First Day 

  1. Meeting Your Treatment Team

On your first day, you will have several appointments with various providers who will be a part of your treatment team: therapist, psychiatrist, registered dietician, and the medical team will meet with you for an initial evaluation to get to know you. They will seek to understand your struggles and your goals, allowing them to personalize a treatment plan to best assist you in your recovery and provide the best treatment experience possible.

  • Therapy: During your initial meeting with your therapist, you will receive an explanation of the Renfrew Center’s Unified Treatment (UT) Model, along with an explanation of how it can help you become an expert of your own emotional patterns. You will also receive a schedule of group programs occurring during the week, complete a family and supports assessment, and review the clinical history of your mental health and eating disorder. Based on your individual goals, your therapist will choose therapy groups that best match your interests and meet your needs. But most importantly, this appointment will be the start of getting to know your primary treatment team member – your therapist.
  • Psychiatry: If you are currently taking medication for your mental health, your psychiatrist will review these medications with you and discuss how they have or have not been helpful for you. Your psychiatrist will utilize your first appointment as a chance to get to know you better, as well as giving you a chance to get to know them. “We want to get the big picture of course – what struggles over the years have brought you to our office. We will want to know your thoughts – do you want changes made or would you prefer for everything to stay the same? The first appointment is the start of a collaboration.” – Dr. Hahn – Spring Lane Psychiatrist and Medical Director
  • Nutrition: In the first nutrition session, you can expect to explore your nutritional history and eating patterns with your registered dietitian. Your dietitian will also explain our dining levels and menu system and assist you in setting up an individualized meal plan that best meets your needs.
  • Nursing/Medical: A registered nurse will check your vitals, complete an EKG, obtain a urine sample, and ask several questions about your medical and mental health history. Our nurse practitioner will review your medical history, including eating disorder symptoms. They will also review any medications you are currently taking, as well as those that will be prescribed during treatment, perform a physical examination, and provide you with education about potential medical complications that can result from an eating disorder.
  1. Settling Into Your Room

For your safety and the safety of the community, all residents’ luggage is screened on their first day. You will be sent a packing list of items recommended for you to bring, as well as a list of items not to bring. We encourage you to pack some belongings that bring you happiness and comfort, as well as things to occupy your down time that bring you enjoyment and peace. For example, pictures of family, friends, and pets, encouraging notes, cards to write to loved ones, books, music, games, etc. are all great items to have with you.

You will likely be getting a roommate, as most rooms have two beds, and are split between two residents. Roommates are typically paired by age, so that adolescents are roomed together, and adults are roomed together. Our staff does their best to ensure a comfortable living environment for all our residents.

  1. Eating Together & Healing Together

You will have lunch and dinner with fellow new admits on your day of admission. Since this is your first day, we only ask that you try your best with your meals. No expectations – just do the best you can. Counselors are present during all meals, as well as during all snack times, and they are always available for extra guidance and support as needed.

  1. Having Support from People Who Understand

There may be some unsettling emotions that arise as you make the transition into residential treatment, and this is normal. Our team is here to offer support on day one and every day that follows. For your first day of treatment, there will be a Day of Admissions Coordinator who will help orient you to the campus, explain what the course of your day will look like, answer any questions you or your loved ones may have, ensure you make your way to all your appointments, and provide support throughout the day.

You will also have a community of peers to help support you. Each resident has experienced their own first day as well, along with all the transitions that come with it, and know exactly what you are going through. We can assure you will experience a warm welcome and a world of support from those who are here on their journey to recovery along with you.


Whether this is the beginning of your journey to recovery or a stop along the way, give yourself credit for reaching out and showing up for treatment. It takes courage to prioritize yourself and accept the help you deserve. Recovery will not always be linear or easy, but patients often tell us the long-term results are well worth the short-term discomfort. Good luck on your journey, and we wish you a successful recovery.

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