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Three Essentials for an Outpatient Eating Disorders Program

Three Essentials for an Outpatient Eating Disorders Program

By Beverly Price, RD, MA, E200-RYT, C-IAYT, CEDRD-SBPrice

The essentials in the development an outpatient eating disorders treatment program are many, ranging from business planning to financial management. However, without vision, passion, and determination, the plan and financials mean very little. This article is written for those who have created, cultivated or work in outpatient eating disorders programs who want to be the best at what they do, and who are determined to do whatever it takes to continue to have their program be of service to patients.


Vision is the art of seeing the invisible

                    …Jonathan Swift

I went from dabbling in Yoga back in the late 70’s, to a full on Yoga practice and enrollment Yoga teacher training in the early 2000’s. A requirement of the Yoga teacher-training program was to complete a special project that spoke to us. I chose to research Yoga and its impact on the treatment of eating disorders. A large frustration of my former nutrition private practice, that I sold in 2001, was that I was treating many individuals with eating disorders, but with a fragmented outpatient treatment team of therapists and physicians scattered all over town. In addition, I always felt that there was something missing in the treatment component. As I delved into my own Yoga practice, it became crystal clear to me that Yoga was the missing link in eating disorder treatment.

Following the completion of my Yoga teacher training, I knew what I needed to do…and that was re-enter private practice with a new outlook – professionally and personally. I needed to combine Yoga in the treatment of eating disorders…and that I did…. On January 2, 2004, I opened up my doors again. I started out incorporating the physical and spiritual practice of Yoga into my individual sessions, while facilitating “Yoga and eating disorder” support groups. In these two-hour support groups, I taught a Yoga class by immersing myself in the group of participants vs. standing up front on a mat modeling yoga poses as typical instructors do. I did not model the poses, but mingled with participants, as if I was at a social gathering. As I guided clients through a “flow,” I interspersed a theme and message focused on how our relationship with food parallels all other relationships in our lives. The theme of the Yoga class continued into the support/discussion portion of the program.

The two-hour support program grew into a weekend intensive and then a week intensive featuring not just Yoga but mindful eating, art therapy, music therapy, and more. The program eventually grew out of its “one room school house” and in 2008 – in the most severe downturn of the economy – I found a large free standing building to house my vision, in order to create a home-like environment. Our outpatient eating disorders program became licensed and accredited, as it grew into a partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP) along with outpatient treatment, where we had a healthy mix of insurance and cash. My vision to surround myself with other professionals in a multi-disciplinary treatment program – in a collaborative environment – to bring healing to those who struggled with eating disorders across the spectrum, and to create a community for those who struggled with eating disorders had come to fruition. The center was full of life and tumult.

As you cultivate your vision, ask yourself:

What are my core values?

What do I need and want out of life?

How can my company accomplish that?

What would such a company look like?

How do I get it to look like that?

What skills and talents do I bring to this vision?


The aimless arrow never misses

                    …Kahuna Harry Jim

In order to run a successful outpatient eating disorders program, the institute can’t stand alone…there has to be heart. Are you in this work for the right reasons? Is it only your left toe that is in the water, or are you all in? A passionate professional is committed to everything they do, not allowing the clock to define when they come and go. Is your leadership fostering an environment of teamwork, or are staff focused on their own interests? Are staff members given opportunities to grow and excel, or is their input discounted? As a Yoga therapy trainee, I was taught to “get out of the way” when it came to helping my clients flourish. This too holds true with your staff. The staff that we cultivated over the years was passionate, creative, seasoned, and skilled. They took feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow. There was also laughter and celebrations of patients and staff. Yoga is about community, and this is the energy I wanted for our center in its surrounding community.

The design and evolvement of our program was with intention to prepare for its sale in order to obtain the assistance needed to take our center to the next level. As of September 2016, a private group acquired my treatment center. Although the series of talented staff members, that were trained at my former center moved out of the center and into the community, great Eating Disorder practitioners are now dispersed into our community. Based on the exchange of energy that our clinicians had at and with the center, these clinicians continue to serve those needing access to care. As for myself, I have channeled my passion into continuing to conduct Yoga therapy trainings for eating disorder professionals as a Certified International Association of Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT). Yoga therapists are now certified through an accredited body. Individuals cannot call themselves a Yoga therapist, nor purport that they provide Yoga therapy, unless they have gone through the proper process to be certified by the IAYT. As Yoga therapy evolves, the IAYT, recognized as the as the governing body for yoga therapists based on evidenced-based practice and peer reviewed literature, standards of practice that differentiate between a Yoga therapist and Yoga teacher are now emerging.

As you hone your passion, ask yourself:

What is the burning fire in my belly? Can I tap into it?

What are the obstacles I see towards making my passion a reality?

As a business owner, does my body ignite when it comes to planning for the development of my staff through education, supervision, and support so that I can watch them excel and deliver the best program?

Decide whom you will serve

Find out what they want

Get it

Let them know you have it

Give it to them—

…make it an “experience”


There was a man who dug for water

                  The Buddha

My Yoga teacher once told a story about a man who dug for water.  When he did not find any water right way, he quickly moved on.  After digging many holes, and not finding any water, he became discouraged.  What he did not realize is that he did not take the time to dig deep enough. When forming an outpatient eating disorders program, take the time to focus and don’t give up so quickly! It is easy to become distracted when matters are not going at the speed at which you would like. You then embark down new avenues to try and create success. If you just keep the focus right where you are, the “slow build” takes place. Before you know it, you too have a large and thriving business.

Another jewel to remember is that Love and Trust are mutually exclusive of Fear and Doubt.  If you approach your endeavors with an abundance of love and passion, along with belief and commitment to what you do, then fear and doubt cannot intervene.  And if you make a mistake, take the opportunity to learn from your mistake.

Lastly, be true to yourself. As the saying goes, “Often, the Hardest thing about Moving Forward is leaving something behind…and usually it’s a part of ourselves.” At some point, your own vibration may move beyond the collective and into your next opportunity. Your passion may still be alive and burning inside of you, but your vision may re-align. Allow yourself to let go and move forward.

Stay committed, while staying in your truth:

Know specifically What it is that you want.

Know Why you want it.

Know what Obstacles (like Self-Limiting Beliefs) may be in the way.

Know by When you expect to achieve your goals.

Know What Price you are willing to pay for success.


About the author:

Beverly S Price, RD, MA, E200-RYT, C-IAYT, CEDRD-S is a certified eating disorder registered dietitian and iaedp supervisor, experienced registered Yoga teacher and IAYT Certified Yoga therapist recognized for bringing mindfulness-based Yoga to the eating disorder treatment community. Beverly is Founder and former CEO of the Reconnect with Food Programs at the Inner Door Center, acquired by a private company in 2016. Since leaving the Inner Door Center in 2017, she remains active in the national and local Eating Disorder community through consulting, lecturing, board positions, supervising and mentoring, along with her Yoga Therapy training program for eating disorders professionals.


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