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What is Day Treatment for Eating Disorders? 5 Common Questions

What is Day Treatment for Eating Disorders? 5 Common Questions

Written by: Jessica Allen O’Connor
Professional Relations Representative, The Renfrew Center of Orlando

Day Treatment Programs (DTP) or a Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) for eating disorders allows patients to live independently, while still offering structured support as they work towards freedom from the eating disorder. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Day Treatment for Eating Disorders? 5 Common QuestionsRecovery is a journey, and everyone’s journey looks different. The day treatment program utilizes a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment program, known as the Unified Treatment Model for Eating Disorders. This model focuses on healing through empathic relational connections and emotion-focused treatment interventions.

Eating disorders are complex psychiatric disorders and can be rooted in many different causes. Treatment focuses on targeting the factors most responsible for the maintenance of the eating disorder symptoms.

What Does Day Treatment Typically Include?

Day Treatment offers an ideal “step-down” for those transitioning from a residential level of care. It can also be a “step-up” for those who need more support than is offered in an outpatient setting or our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Eating disorders often thrive in isolation. Day Treatment creates a sense of connection and community among patients, which can aid greatly in the recovery process.

The Unified Treatment Model for Eating Disorders relies greatly on fostering a healthy relationship with food, self, and others. In addition, patients learn the skills needed for recovery, while building tolerance to uncomfortable emotional experiences.

This level of care is a structured program that meets 5 days per week and includes:

  • Meal & snack support 2x per day
  • Medication management
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Expressive therapies
  • Family involvement
  • Psychoeducation
  • Weekly psychiatric evaluation and follow-up

How is the Appropriate Level of Care Determined?

Before entering treatment, each potential patient will undergo an assessment with an Admissions Coordinator who will determine the most appropriate level of care based on the medical, psychological, and social needs of the patient.

The Admissions Coordinator will collaborate with the patient’s outpatient providers which usually consists of a therapist, dietitian, primary care physician, and psychiatrist, to gather information about medical and psychological history, current symptoms, and laboratory results.

It’s important to note, every level of care has specific criteria for admission to ensure that patients are getting the care that best meets their needs in the least restrictive environment. Our Admissions Coordinator will consider the frequency, duration, and severity of the eating disorder symptoms, explore accessibility and financial concerns, and assess any co-occurring diagnoses to make the appropriate recommendation.

How Long Does Day Treatment Last?

The length of stay in a day treatment program varies from person to person. The treatment team will recommend how long the patient should be in the program based on the patient’s treatment goals, progress, motivation, and symptomology.

Virtual Day Treatment

If in-person treatment cannot be arranged, some providers offer virtual outpatient therapy facilitated by clinical staff trained in telehealth best practices. Virtual programs are HIPAA-compliant and provide the same skills and support found in in-person programs.

How Do I Know If I Need Day Treatment?

If the eating disorder symptoms are interfering with everyday life and activities, if you are not making progress in a lower level of care, or if you are suffering mentally or physically in any way, it may be time to consider day treatment. If you are regularly using harmful coping mechanisms to deal with difficult emotions and situations, it can prevent you from experiencing the full and meaningful life you deserve to live.

Eating disorder thoughts frequently convince folks that they are not sick enough for treatment, so it can be difficult to clearly recognize when the structure and support of Day Treatment is needed. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) developed specific guidelines for professionals to reference when recommending a level of care for treatment. Our qualified Admissions Coordinators can provide a thorough assessment to identify which level of care would best fit your needs.

Renfrew’s Day Treatment Program

At The Renfrew Center, we provide a comprehensive continuum of care that includes Residential, Day Treatment (DTP/PHP), and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) where patients are able to transition to the appropriate level of care in order to successfully reach their treatment goals. Each patient is assessed and evaluated individually to be sure their specific needs are met in the most appropriate level of care for them depending on the severity of their eating disorder symptoms, medical status, and any other mental health diagnoses. An eating disorder can be treated at any age and at any stage, however it is ideal to catch it and treat it as early as possible.

Renfrew’s Day Treatment Program is designed to increase and inspire a renewed sense of strength, determination and emotional resiliency while decreasing the shame, secrecy and isolation that so often perpetuate symptoms.


Day Treatment is a great option for patients who need more support and structure than can be offered by just on outpatient team or intensive outpatient program, as well as those who have recently completed a residential eating disorder treatment program. Patients will learn the skills needed for a successful, long-lasting recovery that is free from an eating disorder. Successful completion of an eating disorder program can teach patients that full recovery is achievable.

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