Eating Disorder Program

At University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, we understand that seeking treatment for an eating disorder can be overwhelming. Whether you need inpatient or outpatient treatment, the Eating Disorder Treatment team will work with you to determine which level of care is best for you. Our team specializes in providing care that is evidence based, individualized, and comprehensive. UI has been providing treatment to individuals with eating disorders for over four decades and our multidisciplinary team includes dietitians, educational consultants, nurses, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, recreational therapists, pharmacists, music therapists, and social workers. We work alongside patients to help them learn effective strategies to treat the symptoms of an eating disorder and to address past and present emotional needs. At UI, we believe in caring for the whole person.

Comprehensive Care

Caring for the Mind and Body

Individuals who are diagnosed with eating disorders may also be struggling with psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, or substance abuse. In addition, patients may experience medical conditions that often occur with these disorders. Our team will address various areas of concern before designing a treatment plan. We are one of the few places in the country with a medical psychiatry unit that addresses both mental and physical health concerns. We also have immediate access to a wide range of care, since we are housed in the state's only academic medical center.

Levels of Care

When seeking treatment, it can be difficult to know what level of care is needed to best treat symptoms, medical conditions, and emotional needs a patient may be experiencing. At UI, we offer multiple levels of care to address patient needs across the spectrum.

Adult Psychiatry Clinic

We provide diagnosis evaluations by appointment to assess the appropriate level of care. Treatment options in an outpatient setting include individual therapy and medication management. For individuals who need services closer to home, we may be able to assist you in finding care in your area.

Relapse Prevention Groups

The Aftercare/Relapse Prevention groups meet weekly for 60 minutes. The groups are facilitated by social workers to assist patients in eating disorder recovery. Patients are required to have an individual outpatient therapist that they see regularly in order to be eligible for this group.

Partial Hospital - Eating Disorder Track

Individuals on the Eating Disorder Track in the Partial Hospital participate in structured therapy programs during the day and spend nights and weekends at home. This program serves as a step-down from inpatient care and a step-up from outpatient care. Treatment may last from several weeks to a few months, depending on the clinical situation.

A typical day in the partial program might include all or some combination of the following:

  • Individual psychotherapy 
  • Group Psychotherapy 
  • Group Education & Skills Classes 
  • Family meetings 
  • Medication management 
  • Dietary guidance 
  • Occupational therapy 
  • Recreational therapy 
  • Supervised meals and snacks

Crisis Stabilization Unit

UI opened its Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) in the fall of 2018. While the CSU is not a specialty unit for the treatment of eating disorders, the staff is able to provide prompt and effective treatment for individuals experiencing a mental health emergency, such as an emotional crisis or a psychiatric issue needing care right away. Patients and staff share a calm and open area with comfortable reclining chairs. Patients are first seen by a nurse, and then participate in a psychiatric evaluation with the care team. You may be offered medicines or therapy to ease your symptoms.

After we’ve had some time to see how you are doing, you may be given choices for more care. Those choices might include a hospital stay, medication, establishing outpatient therapy, getting connected to community resources, or other care options.

Inpatient Services

Treatment for an eating disorder sometimes requires hospitalization and UIHC offers two levels of inpatient care. As an academic medical center, we offer the state’s only Medical/Psychiatric unit to care for individuals with extensive medical needs related to symptoms and health changes including nutritional deficits, cognitive impairments, severe dehydration and more. Patients who do not require this level of medical intervention may seek care in our Eating Disorders Inpatient Unit. 

In 2021, we moved into a newly renovated inpatient unit featuring private rooms, a de-stimluation (or calming) room, an open nurses’ station, and the shared experience of group treatment with a focus on eating disorders for individuals 16+. When an individual begins treatment, our team conducts a thorough physical and psychological assessment including a review of coping skills and family dynamics. A comprehensive treatment plan will then be designed to meet the individual’s unique needs.A typical day in the inpatient unit might include all or some combination of the following:

  • Psychotherapy groups 
  • Psychiatric education group 
  • Meeting with social services to coordinate discharge plans 
  • Meeting with an educational consultant 
  • Meeting with a physician daily 
  • Occupational therapy (plan, shop for, and prepare a meal) 
  • Individual psychotherapy 
  • Family meetings 
  • Recreational therapy (art therapy, music therapy, community outings, exercise education)
  • Supervised meals and snacks 
  • Weight monitoring

Our treatment team is trained in a variety of evidence-based practices, with a heavy focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness, and an increasing awareness of Trauma Informed Care. While members of our team come from various professional backgrounds, we work together to synthesize our approaches to create a cohesive, yet eclectic model for caring for individuals with eating disorders.

    Care Team

    Care Team Members without profiles

    • Erin Martin, DO, Psychiatrist
    • Melissa O'Donnell, Occupational Therapist
    • Jeanne Gupta, RN, Admissions
    • JP Claussen, Education Coordinator