The vast majority of people dealing with eating disorders will experience around six weeks of initial, intensive therapy as a hospital inpatient. While this sets many people well on their road to recovery, it is understood that this road can be long and stressful to navigate. For individuals who still feel fragile and vulnerable following their treatment, it is important for them to access additional rehabilitation support.

Priory Group’s Arthur House has recently opened to provide people with this stepping stone between an acute residential stay and returning to everyday life. Based in Wimbledon, the service gives people extended care following on from an intensive hospital stay. The team also supports people who are starting to develop a poor relationship with food, providing them with an environment that is safe without the need for a hospital stay.

The ‘bridging’ approach following on from inpatient treatment has been found to help people manage their recovery in the long term. The contrast between being an inpatient and an outpatient in the community can be difficult for some. Accessing a step-down service can make the transition smoother, as it provides people with a helping hand and prepares them for situations that they may encounter in everyday life.

Addressing the issue of relapse following inpatient treatment

Relapse can be a common occurrence in those with eating disorders, where people return to their disordered habits, obsessions and negative thoughts.

A residential step-down service can reduce the likelihood of relapse and repeated hospital stays, playing an important role in ensuring recovery is sustained, by helping a person make links with the local community and turn their hopes for a healthy future into reality.

Sometimes, when rehabilitation support is provided within a day care facility, a person can then experience relapsing behaviours in the hours outside of treatment. While day care facilities do offer effective services, it is important to remain aware that these destructive behaviours can happen in the times when the person is away from their treatment.

A rehabilitation support service, where a person stays during both the day and night, can make sure that they are constantly in a safe and supportive environment as they deal with their fears and worries.

Supporting the transition back to family life

As a person prepares to leave their inpatient treatment, the idea of eating their first meal at home with the family can be very daunting. It can feel as though all eyes are on them. It can also be a difficult time for their family, as many can worry that they don’t know what to do, what to challenge, what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable for the person who has undergone inpatient treatment.

A treatment pathway containing further rehabilitation support provides everyone with time, support and education to ease these worries.

At Arthur House, we work closely with the families of those who are going through our programme. They are invited onto the premises for workshops and educational sessions, so that everyone can gain experience before the person transitions back to the family home. During the educational work, family members are given information on a broad range of topics related to food, hunger and nutrition so that they have the information and strategies needed to support the person as they leave treatment.

We also put on practical sessions with families, where we’ll work with them to cook, portion up food and eat together. This can help to make that step back into family life less daunting and provides everyone with experiences that they can take back into the family home.

Transitioning back to life in the community

When a person transitions into an experiential programme following on from a hospital stay, where everyday challenges are recreated in a safe environment, the person can be prepared for re-entering life in the community.

As part of the rehabilitation programme that people undertake at Arthur House, exposure work can help people to prepare for life in the community once again. During their time at Arthur House, people are gradually exposed to food-related activities and behaviours to reduce the anxiety often experienced during these situations.

People have the ability to shop for and buy their own food based on the ‘enjoyable’ nutritional values of food rather than fear of fat or calorie content. They also come up with nutritionally balanced meal ideas and cook for themselves on a daily basis. They can also visit cafes and restaurants. During their rehabilitation, a person may also be encouraged to try on clothes in a public changing room to challenge their dysmorphic body image.

These forms of intervention give the person an opportunity to challenge fears in a safe and supported environment, and help them to regain their independence and autonomy.

Accessing further therapeutic support

Receiving additional rehabilitation support can also provide a person with further access to therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and cognitive remediation therapy (CRT). During this stage of the recovery journey, these sessions are focused on reintegration back into the community, and teaching people strategies that they need for their life going forward so that they have the tools for a successful recovery journey.