From our friends at Within Health
Many professionals and people in need of care may still believe myths that remote care is an inferior level of treatment for mental health concerns, like eating disorders. In truth, studies show remote care for eating disorders is a helpful and proven option that offers wonderful benefits that in-person care cannot match. (1,2)
Keep reading to learn more about remote care of eating disorders and the reality behind the myths.
What is remote care for eating disorders?
Remote care is a general term used to describe any treatment method that does not depend exclusively on in-person, face-to-face appointments between the professional and the person receiving treatment. Rather than the person driving to an office, remote care utilizes technology for communication and care.
Remote care for eating disorders may involve:
- Real-time text message communication
- Phone calls
- Video chatting
- Message boards
- Group therapy
- Support groups
- Meal support
- One on one sessions
Remote eating disorder care is not a new type of treatment. It is a new way of offering what is already known to be effective in treating eating disorders, like CBT and FBT, in a way that utilizes technology to increase the accessibility to this type of specialty care.
A multidisciplinary approach is the gold standard in eating disorder treatment. Remote care can gather a team of specialized treatment professionals to provide collaborative care in one’s living room. This unique approach to providing care makes it more accessible, more transferable into one’s daily life, and more convenient to include the factors that enhance recovery motivation in someone’s experience.
Debunking common myths about remote care for eating disorders
To accurately understand the benefits of virtual treatment, it’s essential to debunk the common myths surrounding remote care for eating disorders.
Myth: You can’t treat trauma remotely
The Truth: Remote care is an excellent and effective way to address the trauma that often accompanies or contributes to eating disorders.
In a study of fully-remote care for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), participants generally showed lower levels of trauma-related symptoms after services. The treatment was so successful that more than 82% of participants no longer had a PTSD diagnosis at a 6-month follow-up. (3) Here, remote care was as effective or more effective than traditional treatment.
Often, people who are working through their trauma share with their team that being treated at home provides additional elements of comfort that are not usually available to them in brick and mortar settings. Things like familiar surroundings, safe places, and even pets can help people remain in a more regulated state during this work.
Myth: You can’t weight restore
The Truth: Weight restoration is an important part of recovery for many people with disordered eating, and it is absolutely possible to do so in remote care.
For a person who is in need of nutritional support, remote treatment for eating disorders is an appropriate option when people are medically stable enough for step-down levels of care like PHP, IOP, or outpatient. With any eating disorder care, the level of behavior interruption should match the person’s medical stability, motivation, and need for support.
Remote meal support offers intervention during some of the most challenging times in the disorder, including the ability to interrupt symptom patterns, provide distraction and connection and external accountability.
Myth: Patients are less engaged
The Truth: Patients may actually be more engaged with the use of remote treatment than those who use traditional, in-person treatments. Remote treatment removes so many barriers to help people enter and continue in care. Additionally, remote care casts a wider net for those seeking treatment and has a greater ability to connect people with similar presentations and experiences of eating disorders, thus allowing more connection, understanding and growth.
Those in treatment can continue to be a part of the aspects of their life that provide motivation for recovery. Things like work, family, pets, and friends continue to be a part of one’s environment while still being in care. This can help to fuel engagement and motivation for recovery.
Remote therapy works to engage people through:
- Access to experts
- Flexibility with evening and weekend appointments available
- Convenience since there is no need to drive to appointments, leave work, or arrange childcare
- Family engagement with loved ones connecting from their locations
- Privacy as you no longer must walk into a treatment center
- Connecting individuals by shared experiences such as diagnosis, age, and race
Remote treatment helps people get engaged and stay engaged. Studies of remote treatment find very low dropout rates. (3)
Myth: Can’t provide meal support
The Truth: Remote treatment can provide meal support that surpasses options available to those using in-person treatment.
While in-person treatments rely on the client bringing recommendations and techniques into their home, remote treatments enable the professional to be with the client in their own kitchen or dining room. They can offer a level of personalized care not available with in-office meal support.
Remote care works with your natural environment and the triggers that happen in everyday life. The care and support your team offers while navigating these challenges help translate recovery from a controlled treatment center environment to your daily life.
Myth: Remote treatment is a watered-down version of in-person
The Truth: Remote treatment uses the same tested interventions used during in-person sessions.
Remote care providers use telemedicine techniques to connect with their patients wherever and whenever they need support. The same techniques that work so well at an in-person treatment program are used in remote settings with similar results. Nothing is watered down here.
A unique innovation in remote care is the ability to build treatment programming around the individual instead of putting an individual into a ready-made program. Remote care is not bound by the same time limits an in-person program is, so can offer different blocks of time, various evidence-based treatment offerings based on what is best for the person, and specific experience-based care that reflects the person’s unique needs to recover.
Where can you find remote care for an eating disorder?
Anyone interested in learning more about remote care for an eating disorder or starting treatment should consult Within Health. The multidisciplinary team at Within can guide the person through all phases of treatment, from intake to post-treatment support groups. Remote treatment may not be best for everyone, but many people can receive the assistance they need from the safety and comfort of their homes with remote care.
- Gorrell, S., Reilly, E. E., Brosof, L., & Le Grange, D. (2022). Use of Telehealth in the Management of Adolescent Eating Disorders: Patient Perspectives and Future Directions Suggested from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Adolescent health, medicine and therapeutics, 13, 45–53. https://doi.org/10.2147/AHMT.S334977
- Falco, C. B., Peres, M. A. A., Appolinario, J. C., Menescal, L. L., & Tavares, I. G. A. M. (2022). Remote consultation with people with eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Revista brasileira de enfermagem, 76Suppl 1(Suppl 1), e20220197. https://doi.org/10.1590/0034-7167-2022-0197
- Bongaerts, H., Voorendonk, E. M., Van Minnen, A., Rozendaal, L., Telkamp, B. S. D., & de Jongh, A. (2022). Fully remote intensive trauma-focused treatment for PTSD and Complex PTSD. European journal of psychotraumatology, 13(2), 2103287. https://doi.org/10.1080/20008066.2022.2103287