You may have heard about a new field of medicine called telehealth or teletherapy. You can now see a medical professional through an online platform, right from the comfort of your home. This is convenient and effective for routine medical issues, but can it be used to treat a complex mental health disorder? Learn more about telemental health and how it can help with eating disorders.
How Has Teletherapy Been Used for Eating Disorders?
Although this is a fairly new medical field, treatment providers have already started using it to address disordered eating. A 2012 study looked at in-person treatment vs. telemedicine to treat bulimia nervosa and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED). Participants were randomly assigned to in-person cognitive behavioral therapy or online cognitive behavioral therapy.
Overall, the study found that the patients didn’t have a “strong preference” for either type of therapy, the suitability of treatment, or the likelihood of success. The study authors concluded, “For patients, the ‘what’ of treatment was more important than the ‘how.’”
In another study published in August 2017, teens with anorexia were given family-based treatment (FBT) over teletherapy. The study authors wrote that it is “feasible to deliver FBT via teletherapy” and that “satisfactory clinical outcomes are achievable.” While research into teletherapy for eating disorders is somewhat limited, these studies demonstrate success when it has been used in the past.
How Telemental Health Can Be Beneficial for People with Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are complex illnesses and in some cases, in-person treatment is necessary. Still, teletherapy can be a great solution, especially at the outpatient level of care. Here are some of the benefits of online eating disorder treatment.
Eating disorder treatment is a highly specialized area of medicine. It can be hard to find a treatment location within driving distance. Teletherapy eliminates distance barriers since you can attend online sessions from home, even if the physical treatment center is located hours away.
Teletherapy makes it easy for you to access treatment. You just need an electronic device that connects to the internet. Additionally, some online therapists maintain flexible schedules so you can easily fit a session into your schedule. Teletherapy is a great option for someone who is unable to take time off of work or school to seek treatment.
Same Quality of Care
Although the platform is different, telemental health offers the same quality of care as in-person treatment. With video chatting capabilities, you can meet with a therapist one-on-one or participate in a group setting. You can also receive nutritional counseling and real-time meal support – all the same services provided at a traditional eating disorder clinic.
When Is Online Therapy Not Appropriate?
There are situations where Teletherapy is not an appropriate treatment option. Severe eating disorders require a period of in-person treatment at a residential center or outpatient clinic. Once significant progress has been made, online sessions may be considered. And if someone is dangerously underweight or malnourished, they need care from an inpatient facility with 24-hour medical monitoring.
Could Teletherapy Be Right for You?
If you or someone you know is seeking treatment for an eating disorder, consider Teletherapy. Seeds of Hope now offers all outpatient programming through Teletherapy. We have treatment for adults and eating disorder programs for teens. Contact our admissions department at (610) 644-6464 to learn more or set up an online session.