Written by: Jennilyn Harvey, LPC-A
Clinical Assessor at The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia-Spring Lane
An eating disorder treatment assessment is often the first step on a person’s journey to recovery and can be filled with many overwhelming emotions, especially if this is the first time reaching out for more support. In this post, we break down the basic steps.
The eating disorder treatment assessment process begins with reaching out to one of a program specialist or representative (we call them Program Information Specialists). This is a trained professional who will compassionately walk you through the intake process, collecting your basic information (e.g., name, age, location), inquiring about your needs and what you are seeking support for, and reviewing your insurance information to ensure all financial resources are being used to your benefit.
From there, your program representative will get you scheduled for an assessment with a clinical professional who will conduct the assessment. This is someone highly trained in the treatment of eating disorders and/or a master’s level clinician.
As you anticipate your scheduled assessment you may be feeling overwhelmed. Having an idea of what your assessment will look like can help prepare you for your journey to recovery. Here’s what to expect.
Eating Disorder Assessment: An Example of What to Expect
Step 1: The clinical assessor scheduled to complete your assessment will reach out to you one of two ways: either by telephone or Zoom depending on how the assessment was scheduled with the program information specialist when you initially called. If your assessment is scheduled to be completed via Zoom meeting, the clinical assessor will send the Zoom meeting link to the email address you provided during your intake call approximately 30 minutes prior to the scheduled assessment time. If scheduled to complete your assessment via telephone, the clinical assessor will call you at the number provided in your intake at the time of the scheduled assessment.
Step 2: Assessments will be completed with you and family members (if appropriate). The clinical assessor will begin the call by explaining the purpose of the assessment, which is to evaluate you or your loved one’s symptoms and needs. Clinical assessors will also explain how long a comprehensive eating disorder assessment will generally take to complete (typically about 1.5-2 hours). This ensures they fully understand your goals and needs when coordinating your admission to the appropriate level of care.
Step 3: During your assessment, the clinical assessor will gather all necessary information to better understand how your treatment provider can best support you based on the information provided. The assessor will gather information including:
- Referral information:
-Were you referred by an outpatient therapist, dietitian, or psychiatrist?
-What brings you or loved one into treatment at this specific time?
- Previous treatment history:
-Have you received treatment in the past?
-If so, what level(s) of care, which program(s), and for how long?
- Current treatment team:
-Are you working with any outpatient providers such as a therapist, dietitian, psychiatrist, or any other mental health providers?
-If so, we will request your consent to speak with your current outpatient providers to collect any relevant information regarding your treatment and coordinate your admission.
- Medical history:
-Are there any physical health concerns or conditions that would be helpful for us to know about (as eating disorders often impact overall physical health and symptoms)?
-Have you had any ER visits or hospitalizations?
-What medications are you taking, if any, and dosages?
- The onset of your eating disorder symptoms:
-When did you start noticing changes in your eating patterns?
-What was going on in your life at that time?
-How did your symptoms present (e.g., restriction, binging, purging)?
- Current eating disorder symptoms:
-Have your symptoms changed since the onset?
-Is anything going on in your life currently that may be contributing to the eating disorder symptoms?
- Your relationship with your body and movement:
-Does movement or lack of movement impact your daily food intake?
-How do you feel about your body/how your body looks?
- Weight history:
-Have there been any significant changes in weight?
- Co-occurring mental health symptoms:
-Are you experiencing any symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, etc.?
- Family history:
-Has anyone in your immediate family ever received a mental health, substance use, or eating disorder diagnosis?
- Your hobbies and interests and work/school background.
- Goals for treatment:
-What would you like to achieve from your treatment?
Step 4: After the assessment is completed, the clinical assessor will have a more thorough understanding of your needs and will make a recommendation for the appropriate level of care. The assessor will also provide you with the rationale for the level of care being recommended. The recommended level of care may include:
- Residential Treatment: Typically the most comprehensive and structured level of care, providing 24/7 support to help those struggling with eating disorders to alleviate their symptoms.
- Day Treatment: Designed for those in need of more support than standard outpatient therapies offer but are not quite in need of a full Residential experience. Day Treatment provides intensive structure and support five days per week.
- Intensive Outpatient Program: Provides a structured therapeutic community and support three days per week.
You will also have the opportunity to ask questions about the recommendation to gain a better understanding of what treatment will look like for you at that level of care. If you elect to move forward with the level of care recommendation, the clinical assessor can help guide you on your next steps toward admission.
It takes courage to reach out for help and taking those first steps towards recovery can often feel intimating and overwhelming. Renfrew’s Program Information Specialists are available to support you and answer your questions, either by phone (1-800-RENFREW) or via the chat feature on Renfrew’s website. Understanding what happens during an assessment, including the questions that will be asked and the length of time it will take, can relieve some of the anticipatory anxiety associated with the experience. Your assessment is an opportunity to gain clarity around your mental health conditions and identify the goals you’d like to achieve in treatment. Renfrew’s Clinical Assessors are trained to support you, answer your questions, and recommend the level of care that best meets your unique needs.