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October 12, 2023

A Day in the Life of a Client in Residential Care

A Day in the Life of a Client in Residential Care

Pause for a moment. Take a deep breath in. Now, exhale it all out. The prospect of beginning residential treatment for an eating disorder can be anxiety-provoking, overwhelming, and even terrifying. Whether you’re about to start treatment for the first time, are a returning client who has received treatment in the past at a different level of care, or are helping your loved one or patient prepare for their admission to residential treatment, intense emotions and uncertainty surrounding the start of treatment are understandable.

At The Emily Program, we’ve designed our residential treatment programs to accommodate all the apprehension that may come with this brave leap into the unknown. Residential care offers around-the-clock structure and ongoing skill development, with a focus on personalized support from our multidisciplinary care team. The Emily Program’s residential facilities are places of hope and healing. Learn about the variety of interventions we offer in residential care, designed to bring lasting recovery within reach.

An Overview of Residential Eating Disorder Care

While treatment varies based on location and client age, our mission across residential care is the same: to recognize and change destructive eating disorder behaviors and replace them with positive, lasting coping mechanisms that support a full, joyful life. We serve adolescents and adults of all genders, and tailor the length of stay to meet each resident’s unique needs.

Our residential programs take place in comfortable, state-of-the-art facilities nestled in peaceful neighborhoods. Some residents stay less than a month, while others stay several months. No matter the location or duration of stay, clients will be in a safe, secure environment where real healing can happen.

Benefits of residential treatment include:

  • Level of care matches the severity of illness: A 24/7 medically supervised environment and behaviorally intensive program promote medical stability and psychological and nutritional skill development
  • Improves core eating disorder symptoms: Residential treatment promotes weight normalization, reduced eating disorder pathology, improved self-esteem, and improved quality of life
  • Optimizes support system: Comprehensive involvement of family and friends fosters a support system to optimally support clients
  • Comfort and security: Treatment takes place in a homelike environment

Components of Residential Eating Disorder Care

A day in the life of an adolescent or adult client in residential care is focused on healing from start to finish, and is guided by our compassionate 24/7 care teams, which include:

  • Physicians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Dietitians
  • Expressive arts and movement therapists
  • Licensed teachers
  • Recreational therapists
  • Nurses
  • Eating disorders technicians

Our therapists, dietitians, psychiatrists, and/or medical doctors seamlessly integrate supervised care and medical monitoring with personalized treatment plans. Residential programming includes a clinically robust set of evidence-based group and individual interventions that address core eating disorder behaviors and thought patterns. We customize each care plan to each client’s age, specific needs, and challenges.

In addition to close medical, psychiatric, and nutritional monitoring, a client can expect the following typical interventions during their stay in residential care:

  • Group psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Nutrition therapy
  • Experiential activities
  • Expressive arts and movement therapy
  • Integrated schooling (as needed)
  • Support for co-occurring conditions

Group psychotherapy

During group therapy, a licensed therapist will guide the group (typically made up of 5-10 clients) through a topic and allow space for the group to share stories and process emotions together. Sessions provide a safe, judgment-free space for individuals to process thoughts and behaviors related to their disorder among peers who can intimately relate to their experiences. Having the group’s perspective builds community and strength in the presence of an isolating illness.

The Emily Program offers a wide variety of groups to meet the needs of each individual in treatment. All groups integrate cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) interventions. Examples of groups at The Emily Program include Improving Body Image, Distress Tolerance, Challenging Perfectionism, “Cope Ahead,” and LGBTQI Sensitive Eating Disorder Recovery.

Family therapy

At The Emily Program, we believe incorporating a client’s family into their treatment will make the individual more successful in their recovery. We offer family support and education at the residential level, focused on developing effective recovery management skills and preparation for intensive family involvement in outpatient care. Family-Based Treatment (FBT) starts with the understanding that families are not the cause of their loved one’s eating disorder and that, when taking an active role, they can be a major asset in recovery.

We encourage and support the involvement of all types of communities of support in their loved one’s treatment. In addition to Family-Based Therapy, we offer couples therapy and support for friends based on a client’s unique needs.

Nutrition therapy

Nutrition education is foundational to The Emily Program’s “Can Eat Culture.” Nutrition therapy provides meal plan education and awareness about the body’s nutritional needs, including how our bodies utilize nutrients. It also explores wrongful and inaccurate beliefs about nutrition perpetuated by one’s eating disorder and diet culture at large, setting the stage for a client’s healthier relationship with food.

Experiential activities

Frequent behavioral exposure and experiential activities are aimed at self-care, anxiety management, skill development, and alternative coping mechanisms.

Therapeutic meals are a vital experiential intervention. These meals are dietitian-designed and therapist-supported, offering the opportunity for clients to navigate challenges surrounding mealtime, confront maladaptive eating disorder thoughts, and practice new food skills under the guidance of our team.

In addition, therapeutic meal preparation and cooking education provides residents and their supporters with hands-on learning experiences transferable to their real lives outside of treatment.

Expressive arts and movement therapy

In residential care, we use expressive arts and movement therapy in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy, as well as meditation and mindfulness therapy. These powerful therapeutic tools work to rebuild the connection between a client and their body with internal experiences.

Integrated schooling

While treatment and health are the priorities in eating disorder care, we recognize the importance of maintaining educational progress. Adolescents in residential care have a school or study hall incorporated into the programming hours during the school year. Several factors influence how it is integrated into treatment at The Emily Program:

  • School vs. study hall: All students in residential care are given time during the programming day to work on schoolwork. Some students enroll in the treatment facility’s school district to work with a licensed teacher for added support, while others choose to manage schoolwork independently through their home school district.
  • State and school district variability: The educational options for students in treatment vary by state and school district policies and procedures. Be sure to reach out to your child’s school for information.
  • In-person vs. virtual programming: Typically, residential in-person treatment includes an option for the student to enroll in the school district where the treatment facility is located.
  • Student and family preference: Each family will choose what is most supportive for their child’s situation.

Support for co-occurring conditions

Substance use disorder (chemical dependency), chronic conditions, and other mental health complications often add layers of complexity to eating disorder treatment. We understand how to guide our clients on the recovery journey, prioritizing the treatment of co-occurring conditions alongside the eating disorder to ensure holistic healing.

If you have additional questions about residential treatment at The Emily Program, check out our Residential FAQs. To speak with an admissions specialist or get started today, call us at 888-364-5977 or complete an online form.



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