Skip to main content

Outpatient Eating Disorder Treatment
for Children and Adolescents

Children, teens, and young adults face unique age-related challenges and require a different approach to eating disorder treatment than adults do. Early intervention is essential, especially during the crucial developmental years of childhood. At The Emily Program, we’ve designed our outpatient youth programming to specifically address developing minds and bodies. Our eating disorder treatment providers specialize in evaluating and treating young people and design an evidence-based, tailored eating disorder treatment plan to suit the age, developmental stage, and unique needs of each child and adolescent in our care.

The Emily Program offers a continuum of developmentally appropriate outpatient eating disorder treatment modalities for all children and adolescents. Your child’s personalized treatment plan can be scheduled around school hours, and will include a combination of treatment approaches, such as individual and group therapy, Family-Based Treatment (FBT), nutrition, and medical and psychiatric services as needed. We know that eating disorders affect everyone in a family, so we’ve designed our child and adolescent eating disorder treatment services so that loved ones can actively participate in the healing process. Recovery happens when we work together.

Our adolescent outpatient eating disorder treatment shapes its care programs on these core values:

  • Passion: We are passionate about treating eating disorders and helping our clients get well.

  • Respect: Clients and families come first—we have empathy and patience for everyone in our community.

  • Commitment: We are committed to facilitating the recovery of the greatest number of people in need.

  • Collaboration: We partner with families and communities to offer flexible eating disorder treatment options to help children and adolescents.

Outpatient eating disorder treatment strengthens connections

Years of experience treating children and adolescents struggling with anorexia, bulimiabinge eating disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED), compulsive overeating, and related mental health issues, confirm what research shows: that family involvement leads to the best recovery outcomes. Working closely with our outpatient treatment teams means you’ll be empowered to help your child overcome their eating disorder—for good.

We’ve designed our child and adolescent outpatient eating disorder services so that parents, caregivers, and/or other loved ones can actively participate in the healing process. The Emily Program also offers support programs for siblings and counseling for co-parenting adults and couples.

In addition, your child’s treatment team will help integrate your community support network into the treatment journey. They will reach out to the community professionals who interact with your child, such as school staff and your physician, therapists, and dietitians, to ensure appropriate after-care. Recovery happens when we work together.

Personalized eating disorder treatment for children and adolescents

Our outpatient eating disorder treatment for children and adolescents is rooted in a comprehensive and evidence-based approach. Our model tailors treatment to each client, with programming informed by the principles of Family-Based Treatment (FBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Our eating disorder treatment plans for children and adolescents include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Nutrition education
  • Medical and psychiatric services, as needed

Individual sessions

During individual outpatient eating disorder sessions for children and adolescents at The Emily Program, your child will meet one-on-one with a therapist, dietitian, psychiatrist, and/or physician, as needed. The type and frequency of individual sessions vary by treatment plan and are designed to help each client move forward in recovery. In individual therapy and nutrition education sessions, your child will have the opportunity to learn more about their illness and triggers while challenging the thoughts and behaviors that maintain their eating disorder. The supportive relationships your child will develop with their outpatient eating disorder treatment team will ultimately strengthen their recovery and help them learn and practice the skills they need for health.

Group therapy

At The Emily Program, we believe that group therapy can be an incredibly important part of recovery from an eating disorder. Held in age-appropriate small groups and led by a licensed therapist, group therapy provides a safe, judgment-free environment that can assist in processing, skill-building, and healing with other children and adolescents in similar situations. The Emily Program’s group eating disorder therapy sessions vary by location. Your intake therapist and/or individual therapist will recommend groups that are the best fit for your child.

Family therapy

Family involvement is a foundational component in outpatient eating disorder treatment for kids and teens. We know that support people are instrumental in helping young people reach treatment goals and maintain progress in recovery. At The Emily Program, families learn alongside their loved one, developing the tools and knowledge to provide the support the child needs.

The Emily Program’s family therapy 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 ally in recovery. We encourage and support the involvement of all kinds of communities of support in a child or adolescent’s treatment.

Frequently asked questions about outpatient eating disorder treatment
for children and adolescents

How do I talk to my child about their eating disorder?

Discussing an eating disorder with your child or adolescent requires sensitivity, understanding, and timing. It’s important to start these conversations as soon as you spot the warning signs. It might be tempting to wait for symptoms to potentially resolve on their own, but the longer an eating disorder has to take root, the greater your child’s risk is for a longer or more intensive treatment stay, as well as additional health complications.

For children under 11, we advise first bringing your concerns to your child’s pediatrician, primary care physician or therapist, who can guide you on appropriate steps. When talking to adolescents (12 and older), it’s key to consider the setting and the way you intend to communicate your concerns. Choose a moment where you’re not feeling rushed. Limit the amount of distractions to express your concerns clearly and specifically. In general, limiting the number of people involved in the conversation will make the environment feel safer for your child.

You might be tempted to confront your child in the moments after you discover that they’re engaging in disordered behaviors. Instead, try to pause and take a breath to avoid emotional escalation. As you ready yourself for a conversation, remember that you don’t need to have all the answers right away. We encourage starting with basic eating disorder education to prevent perpetuating any myths—check out reliable resources like our Eating Disorder Facts and Resources for Families web pages.

Be prepared for different reactions. Your child may dismiss your concerns or feel relieved to be understood. Ensure your child knows they have your support and that the discussion isn’t a one-time event; you’re taking this seriously. Emphasize that your care extends beyond their symptoms to their overall well-being.

If your child is unwilling to discuss their eating disorder, provide a specific amount of time for them to reflect on your concerns before you revisit the conversation. Affirm how important your child is to you and how much you care about them. You may choose to offer various options to continue the dialogue, whether through text, email, or in person, reinforcing your commitment to their health and happiness.

What is the first step in getting outpatient eating disorder treatment for my child?

Your child’s path to recovery begins with scheduling an assessment. This process requires no referral. Contact us by calling 1-888-364-5977 or completing our online form to have a member of our team reach out to you. Our phone lines are staffed seven days a week by our compassionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable Admissions Specialists. They’re ready to provide support, education, and guidance as you begin your family’s journey toward healing. If you have any questions about insurance coverage, please refer to our Insurance Resources; otherwise, feel free to make any insurance-related inquiries to our Admissions Team.

During the eating disorder assessment, a specialized therapist will ask you a variety of questions about your concerns for your child. They may also ask to speak to your adolescent about their health, eating, and relationship to food and their body. This commitment-free consultation is designed to identify the most appropriate level of care for your child along the continuum we offer. We’ll consider not only the type and severity of your child’s eating disorder but also their personality, unique needs, family and social situation, and any special life circumstances. You’ll have the opportunity to discuss your concerns and get clarity on the next steps. For further details on what to expect during the admissions process or how to prepare, visit our “What to Expect When You Contact The Emily Program” blog or our website’s ‘Get Help‘ section.

Taking this first step can often feel overwhelming, but reaching out for professional help is critical for sustained recovery, offering the comprehensive, holistic support to effectively reclaim your child’s life from their eating disorder.

Get help. Find hope.