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A provider consoles a young patient
April 26, 2023

A Day in the Life of an Adolescent Patient in PHP/IOP Care

Seeking help for an eating disorder takes tremendous courage. We applaud you for taking this brave first step toward helping your child heal. By pursuing the right level of care for your child today, you’re giving them the best chance at achieving full and lasting recovery. 

Your child’s upcoming admission into Veritas Collaborative’s partial hospitalization (PHP) or intensive outpatient (IOP) program will put them on the path to healing, restoring their health, and getting them back to the things that matter most to them. We understand that the most daunting parts of eating disorder treatment aren’t always related to food or body, but rather all the unknowns. You might be wondering: What does an average day look like in treatment? or What types of eating disorder therapies will my child encounter? or How are parents and communities of support involved in treatment? 

We’ve crafted this blog to alleviate any anxieties surrounding the components of our intensive eating disorder treatment programs. Read on to learn about what to expect from these levels of individualized, support-driven care.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Admission to our partial hospitalization programming (PHP) starts with a comprehensive assessment to determine your child’s individual program needs, length of treatment, and specific schedule as they progress through care. Our partial hospitalization program offers patients a full day of treatment, 5-7 days a week. Patients spend the majority of their days in treatment and return home at night.

A day in our child and adolescent partial hospitalization program often begins with a morning medical check-up. Our medical staff’s top priority within this structured, intensive level of care is to address any acute medical problems associated with your child’s eating disorders and to monitor medical and psychiatric stability. We use this time to check vitals and manage the unique medical issues impacting children and adolescents, such as arrested growth and delayed puberty. 

The first therapeutic meal of the day typically follows the morning medical check-up. These meals are clinician-guided, dietitian-designed, and therapist-supported. Therapeutic meals offer the opportunity for your child to navigate challenges surrounding mealtime, confront maladaptive eating disorder thoughts, and practice new food skills under the care of our team. 

After this shared meal, your child will likely attend one of our therapy or skills groups. Our group programming includes psychoeducation, expressive art therapy, body acceptance, multi-family therapy, culinary experiences, and “cope ahead” groups, providing the chance for patients to practice alternative solutions when confronted with eating disorder triggers. These groups emphasize the development of lifelong recovery skills, offer staff-supported opportunities to process the feelings that come up during treatment, and promote reconnection with one’s body and emotions. 

Following a morning snack, your child may participate in a self-monitoring group. This time is reserved for your child to recognize and process thoughts, feelings, urges, and triggers in a safe, supportive space before attending another skills group, such as challenging perfectionism, boundaries/interpersonal effectiveness, dietitian-led education, and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). All of these evidence-based interventions are designed to help your child better understand the factors behind their eating disorder and the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that are maintaining their illness. 

Following the skills group and a therapeutic lunch, your child will take part in an embracing recovery skills group or an expressive group, such as yoga and mindfulness. Our yoga and mindfulness practices instill the ability to calm the mind and reconnect with one’s core self, which can get lost amid the dominating thoughts of an eating disorder. Our patients often take their mindfulness and yoga training far beyond treatment, crediting these practices as important tools for maintaining recovery.

For a more specific timeline, view the sample schedule for a typical day in PHP:

Sample PHP schedule (2)

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

As with PHP, your child will receive an orientation and thorough assessment prior to beginning IOP care. Our intensive outpatient treatment is group-based and offered both in-person and virtually, depending on location. Patients typically spend 3-4 days a week in programming, for roughly 3 hours per day. Dividing time between treatment sessions and home allows your child to practice their recovery-supporting skills in their everyday settings.

Depending on the particular program your child attends, intensive outpatient programming may begin with either a shared therapeutic meal or a therapy group (such as goal setting, DBT, or body acceptance). Meal support is foundational to treatment, as mealtime is often a source of heightened emotions for those struggling with an eating disorder. Beyond providing a proper mix of nourishment, our therapeutic meals assist your child in developing a healthy relationship with food, challenging fear foods, and regulating negative emotions around food – all of which bolster self-awareness and build skills that can transfer to their lives outside of treatment. 

Your adolescent will be supported and encouraged within the structured group environment built into both PHP and IOP, lessening any feelings of isolation that naturally occur as part of an eating disorder. Skills-based groups may include art therapy, body acceptance, embracing recovery, and psychoeducation. Our psychoeducation sessions promote eating disorder education, with the aim of familiarizing your child with their disorder and providing them with strategies to manage the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that maintain their illness. 

After group sessions often comes a shared snack or therapeutic meal, depending on your child’s schedule, followed by end-of-day self-monitoring or additional skills-based group work. Self-monitoring is designed to help your child recognize maladaptive thoughts and behaviors, while our skills-based group settings enable the practice of techniques aimed at minimizing or offsetting harmful eating disorder behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. These age-appropriate support groups further connect your child with their peers and empower them to disrupt their eating disorder thoughts and behaviors with the support of others.

For a more specific timeline, view the sample schedule for a typical day in IOP:

Sample Adol IOP schedule

The Role of Families and Communities of Support in Eating Disorder Treatment

The involvement of caregivers in treatment is crucial to a child or adolescent’s healing. Parents who stay informed and participate throughout the process greatly improve their child’s chances for sustained recovery. Our treatment programs have been designed to facilitate family involvement through family therapy and multi-family group programming, with the goal of empowering families like yours with support and knowledge.

Our clinicians are compassionate providers deeply invested in your child’s well-being. You can count on the expertise of our multidisciplinary care team, who also recognizes the important contributions that parents can make as experts on their children. As a parent, your involvement is essential in supporting your child during treatment and after discharge, and we’re here to provide you with the resources you need every step of the way.

If you have additional questions about Veritas Collaborative’s intensive treatment programs for children and adolescents, check out our Parent FAQs. To speak with an admissions specialist or get started, call us at 1-855-875-5812 or complete an online form