My Intake is Scheduled – What Do I Ask?

Congratulations on taking such a significant step toward recovery by deciding to complete an intake at an eating disorder treatment program! Commonly known as higher levels of care, these programs are designed to incorporate wrap-around care and more intense support, thus speeding up the recovery process compared to working just at the outpatient level. Many people don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to treatment, so I have outlined some questions to ask and why this can be helpful information for you to have.

  1. Is this covered by insurance, and what is the cost going to be to me? 
    1. Chances are, the intake coordinator won’t know the answer to this, and someone in the billing department will check your benefits and let you know. Obviously, this is helpful to know from a financial perspective, as different plans cover higher levels of plan differently. Some insurance companies also only cover certain programs due to contracts in place, so this can be helpful to know before even doing the intake, in case they don’t accept your insurance. If that’s the case, call your insurance provider and ask what facilities are covered. You can also look at the websites of different programs – they usually have a list of insurance companies they accept.
  2. What does your treatment model look like?
    1. Different facilities have different ways of doing treatment. Some are more focused on coping skills and others look more at connection or distress tolerance. It’s helpful to have the intake coordinator explain to you why their model has been shown to help, since some elements might feel like a repeat of either previous treatment attempts or what you were working on with your outpatient therapist. For example, maybe you’ve already done a lot of work on coping skills with your therapist and it does not seem to be enough. Looking for a program that teaches distress tolerance will most likely be more beneficial for you.
  3. What does a typical schedule look like?
    1. Again, different facilities do things differently, and different levels of care have different schedules. This helps logistically in terms of communicating with work and school, scheduling childcare, and planning for meals outside of treatment. It also helps ensure you know what to expect in terms of meals, groups, and individual appointments. They should tell you how often you receive individual therapy, group therapy, nutrition appointments, and psychiatry appointments (although IOP may not have all of these components) and how many meals you’ll have in program each week.
  4. How long will treatment take and how will I know that I’ve successfully completed it?
    1. The first part of this question will largely depend on you. The intake coordinator will give you a rough estimate of time to complete the program, but this can fluctuate depending on how engaged you are with treatment protocol. Logistically, though, it’s helpful to know so you can plan accordingly. The second part of the question gives you more insight into how you can expect to change over time. Sometimes, change feels abstract, so being given concrete definitions of what it looks like to complete the program can be super helpful.
  5. For parents, what is my role in the program?
    1. If you are a parent of a child or adolescent with an eating disorder, you’re going to be involved in treatment in some way. Family therapy is a critical component to recovery for younger clients, and it’s helpful for you to know what that entails and what you will have to commit to. Some programs follow guidelines for family-based treatment (FBT) which will mean a more significant commitment for you. While this may sound daunting, FBT is an incredibly effective treatment model, so don’t let that scare you away! Some programs only have weekly family therapy that you will have to attend, others have groups or family meals on top of that. You also will most likely be attending nutrition sessions, or at least part of them, so that you are familiar with the meal plan and how to support your child at home around meals.
  6. Can I still see my outpatient team while in treatment?
    1. This will largely depend on the level of care, but for some clients who have a strong connection to their outpatient team (therapist, dietitian, and/or psychiatrist) it is helpful to know what the treatment program allows in terms of continued sessions. For IOP, you will most likely be able to keep your outpatient therapist, but any level of care higher than that will likely require you to see a therapist within the program. Ask for clarification on this and, if you’re worried about switching to someone new for a little while, talk to them about your concerns and what you have been finding helpful in sessions now. When you’re done with treatment, you can go back to your previous team if you want to!