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Is Your Screen Sabotaging Your Recovery? The Case for In-Person Eating Disorder Treatment

By Isabel Grieder, Admissions Counselor| 6 Min Read | July 3, 2024

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Limitations of Virtual Therapy for Eating Disorder Recovery
  • The Unique Benefits of In-Person Eating Disorder Treatment
  • Making In-Person Treatment Accessible
  • The Importance of Prioritizing Your Recovery
  • Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic had an enormous impact on every part of our lives, so it’s only natural that our ways of treating eating disorders changed along with everything else. In those years and the years since, virtual therapy has become a convenient and accessible option for many seeking mental health support. It offers flexibility and eliminates geographical barriers, allowing individuals to connect with therapists from the comfort of their own homes. 

This made sense in 2020, when we were all socially distant. But is it the right approach for 2024?

One reason to reconsider the newest status quo is something called “Zoom fatigue.” Constant virtual interaction can be draining, leading some to mental exhaustion and a sense of disconnect. For individuals with eating disorders, this disconnect can be particularly detrimental, as the isolation and lack of real-life support can exacerbate their struggles.

The Limitations of Virtual Therapy for Eating Disorder Recovery

Eating disorder recovery requires a structured and supportive environment that goes beyond virtual interactions. In-person therapy offers a safe space where individuals can fully engage in their treatment without the distractions and potential triggers that may arise in their homes.

Virtual therapy can sometimes hinder the development of the therapeutic relationship, which is important for trust and open communication. Nonverbal cues, body language, and subtle emotional expressions can be missed in virtual sessions, making it more challenging for therapists to fully understand their clients’ needs.

Addressing mealtime struggles and food-related anxieties can be difficult in a virtual setting. The lack of real-time observation and immediate support during meals can leave individuals feeling isolated and vulnerable. 

In contrast, in-person therapy allows for direct support, guidance, and intervention during mealtimes, fostering a sense of safety and accountability.

Virtual therapy often lacks the real-time feedback and support that in-person therapy provides. In-person sessions allow for immediate interaction, clarification, and adjustment of treatment plans based on individual needs. 

The absence of this real-time interaction can sometimes create a sense of detachment and limit the effectiveness of virtual interventions.

The Unique Benefits of In-Person Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorder recovery thrives on community and connection, which are extremely difficult to create in virtual settings. Group therapy sessions provide a space for individuals to share their experiences, challenges, and triumphs, which makes participants feel a sense of belonging and understanding. In this supportive environment, individuals realize they are not alone in their struggles, and they can learn from and inspire one another on their journeys to recovery.

In-person treatment also offers the advantage of meal support, a critical component of eating disorder recovery. Shared meals in a therapeutic setting create opportunities for individuals to practice healthy eating habits, challenge food-related fears, and receive immediate guidance and encouragement from trained professionals. 

These shared experiences can be transformative, helping individuals to develop a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

Experiential activities, such as art therapy, movement therapy, and mindfulness exercises, are often integrated into in-person treatment programs. These activities provide alternative outlets for self-expression, promote emotional regulation, and help individuals connect with their bodies in a positive way.

In-person care also supports individuals through various issues, such as mood swings, particularly in adolescents. The structured environment and real-time interaction provide stability and support that can be crucial during recovery.

Making In-Person Treatment Accessible

Cost and logistics are common concerns for individuals considering in-person treatment. Many insurance plans cover eating disorder treatment, including in-person programs. It’s important to verify your coverage with your insurance provider and explore all available options. Local or regional treatment centers may offer more affordable rates and are more likely to be in-network with your insurance, which reduces out-of-pocket expenses.

Balancing work, school, and family commitments with treatment is a valid concern. In-person treatment programs understand the importance of accommodating diverse schedules and lifestyles. 

Many programs offer flexible options, such as partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), which allow for greater flexibility while still providing the necessary structure and support for recovery. PHPs typically involve daily treatment sessions for several hours, while IOPs offer a less intensive schedule with fewer weekly sessions. 

This flexibility allows individuals to continue their daily routines while receiving comprehensive care.

Many treatment centers offer evening and weekend sessions to accommodate busy schedules. Some may also offer virtual options for certain components of treatment, such as individual therapy or support groups, to enhance accessibility and convenience.

The Importance of Prioritizing Your Recovery

Virtual therapy may have its place in certain situations, but it cannot fully replicate the comprehensive and supportive environment of in-person treatment for eating disorders. The power of human connection, real-time feedback, and the structured setting of in-person therapy play a vital role in fostering lasting recovery. 

For PHP, in-person care has proven to be more effective due to the intensive support and structure it provides.

By prioritizing in-person treatment, you invest in your well-being and open the door to a brighter future. It equips you with the tools, support, and community you need to overcome your eating disorder and build a healthier relationship with food and your body.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, reach out to Inner Haven for a free assessment. Understanding your treatment options is the first step toward a healthier future.

Contact us today to learn more about our specialized treatment programs and start the journey toward recovery.

Key Takeaways

  • Flexibility of Virtual Therapy: Virtual therapy offers convenience and eliminates geographical barriers, allowing individuals to connect with therapists from home. However, “Zoom fatigue” and a sense of disconnect can be challenges.
  • Limitations of Virtual Therapy: Virtual sessions can miss nonverbal cues and body language, hindering therapeutic relationships. Addressing mealtime struggles and food-related anxieties in real-time is difficult, leaving individuals feeling isolated and vulnerable.
  • Benefits of In-Person Therapy: In-person therapy provides a structured and supportive environment, fostering community and connection. Group therapy, meal support, and experiential activities like art and movement therapy enhance the recovery process.
  • Supporting Various Issues: In-person care offers stability and support through mood swings and other issues, which is particularly beneficial for adolescents.
  • Accessibility and Cost: Many insurance plans cover in-person eating disorder treatment, often at more affordable rates with local or regional providers. Flexible program options like PHPs and IOPs accommodate diverse schedules, making in-person care accessible without disrupting daily routines.
  • Importance of In-Person Treatment: The comprehensive and supportive environment of in-person treatment is vital for lasting recovery, providing real-time feedback and a structured setting that virtual therapy cannot fully replicate.
  • Inner Haven’s Commitment: Inner Haven offers quality care with a focus on community, real-time support, and comprehensive treatment options. Reaching out for a free assessment is the first step toward a healthier future.