Eating Disorders

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is world-renowned for successful treatment of eating disorders. Our multidisciplinary team includes dietitians, educational consultants, nurses, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, recreational therapists, and social workers who work together to help individuals replace dysfunctional eating habits with effective, healthy ways of thinking and eating.

Comprehensive Care

Building a Support Network

A strong support network is crucial to a successful recovery. We involve family and friends in the treatment process by inviting them to participate in therapy sessions. The goal of family therapy is to improve communication between parties, ultimately helping a loved one lead a happy and productive life.

Caring for the Mind and Body

Individuals with eating disorders may be struggling with psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse coupled with medical conditions that often occur with these disorders. Our team will begin identifying all the areas of concern before designing a treatment plan that addresses each concern. We have immediate access to any type of care that might be needed since we are housed in the state's only academic medical center.

Preparing for the Future

While inpatient care is a chance for individuals to distance themselves from societal pressures, we prepare individuals for their return to life outside of UI Hospitals and Clinics by:

  • Encouraging them to stick up for themselves
  • Helping them understand negative thoughts and symptoms from their personal history
  • Improving the way they feel about themselves
  • Improving their coping skills and stress management
  • Restoring their body weight to a normal range
  • Teaching them healthy eating and exercise habits

Levels of Care

Inpatient Services

Treatment for an eating disorder often begins with inpatient care. 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.

Individuals in the inpatient unit who are getting used to normal, healthy eating are closely supervised by our staff.

A typical day in the inpatient unit might include all or some combination of the following:

  • Body perception group
  • Ecumenical services on Sundays (optional)
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Meeting with an educational consultant if attending high school or college; school and study hall on weekdays
  • Meeting with care team
  • Occupational therapy (plan, shop for, and prepare a meal)
  • Psychiatric education group
  • Recreational therapy (art therapy, community outings, exercise education)
  • Supervised meals and snacks

Some specific signs that an individual needs to receive inpatient care include:

  • Heart problems or other medical symptoms from binging and purging
  • Not able to improve through outpatient care
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Struggling with other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse

Outpatient Services

Adult Psychiatry Clinic

Regular or as-needed care is available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm in the Adult Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic for individuals with eating disorders. Treatment options in an outpatient setting include individual therapy, medication management, and nutrition assessments.

Partial Hospital - Eating Disorders Track

Individuals in the Eating Disorders Track in the Partial Hospital participate in structured therapy programs during the day and spend the night 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.

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

  • Dietary guidance
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medication management
  • Occupational therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Supervised meals and snacks

Care Team