Eating Disorder Treatment in Iowa

Many individual therapy options are made available within your state—starting from exclusive residential to top-rated Iowa outpatient facilities.

Iowa map

The physical, emotional, and psychological impact of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) can be detrimental to those struggling with these mental health conditions. And, if not treated, these illnesses can potentially even be deadly.

When dealing with something so powerful and complex, it’s important to make sure you or your loved one receives the best and most appropriate treatment possible.

Fortunately, eating disorder treatment in Iowa is relatively easy to find, with a range of Iowa eating disorder treatment centers and options that can help you or your loved one get on the road toward eating disorder recovery.

Types of Eating Disorder Treatment in Iowa

When investigating which Iowa eating disorder program is best for you, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind, including which level of care is most appropriate for you or your loved one.

Eating disorder treatment is generally distributed along a spectrum, with certain levels of care recommended depending on the severity of someone’s case.

Virtual Treatment

Virtual treatment is a new but increasingly popular form of eating disorder therapy. This type of treatment allows someone to access care through their phone or the internet, making it a great option for those in Iowa who live far from an in-person treatment program, those who experience challenges around transportation or mobility, or those who have difficult-to-manage schedules.

And while it’s a new form of treatment, early studies have already shown that virtual care can be just as effective as in-person care in some cases. [3] Though, it’s important to note that virtual care may not be appropriate in all situations, including when someone is struggling with particularly severe symptoms.

Iowa Virtual Treatment Options

One of the biggest advantages of virtual eating disorder therapy is that the program can be based anywhere, even outside of Iowa. That said, when choosing an online option, it’s reputation, rather than location, that makes the biggest difference.

In the newly-emerging landscape of virtual options, Within Health has quickly become one of the top virtual eating disorder treatment programs. The company is licensed to operate in most states, including Iowa, and will set patients up with their own personal care team based on their own personalized needs. 

Within can also send patients medical equipment and even arrange meals to be sent by mail to ensure patients can easily follow their treatment and eating plans.

Inpatient and Residential Treatment in Iowa

Inpatient treatment is generally considered the most intensive form of eating disorder care. This level of treatment takes place in a hospital setting, where a patient has 24-hour access to medical assistance.

Typically, someone admitted to an inpatient program in Iowa needs lifesaving interventions or is otherwise in a state of physical or emotional crisis. The goal of inpatient care is to help someone reach medical stabilization, at which point, they can move on to other forms of care more targeted toward eating disorder recovery.

Residential care is the second-most intensive level of care. Patients can either start their recovery journey here or transfer to a residential program after receiving inpatient care. And these programs can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Patients also sleep at residential facilities and have 24/7 access to medical care, though the environment is much more homelike. Still, the schedules are often strict, with patients going to any number of treatments throughout the day, including individual therapy sessions, nutritional counseling, meal monitoring, and regular clinical assessments.

Inpatient and Residential Care Options in Iowa

The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics offers the state’s only medicine/psychiatry unit providing inpatient care for those with extensive medical needs stemming from eating disorders.

Partial Hospitalization Programs in Iowa

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) represent the middle ground of eating disorder treatment. At this point in their recovery journey, a patient will transition to living and sleeping at home while commuting to therapy sessions.

Treatment can be—and often is—extensive, with patients going to a facility for anywhere from 4-8 hours per day, up to 5 days per week. [1] They’ll likely undergo the same types of treatment they received in residential care and may even work with the same treatment team members, depending on the Iowa-based program. But, a patient is continually monitored as their treatment goes on, with their schedule reassessed and tweaked throughout the process.

PHPs are generally recommended for patients who are ready to start practicing their new coping mechanisms outside of a facility setting but who still need a lot of support on their recovery journey.

Iowa Partial Hospitalization Programs

In addition to their inpatient services, The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics offer a partial hospitalization program for eating disorders, where patients participate in structured therapy sessions during the day and spend their nights and weekends at home.

Outpatient Treatment in Iowa

Outpatient treatment is generally the first or last level of care someone will receive for an eating disorder. That’s because this type of treatment is best suited for patients who don’t need daily interventions or constant monitoring of their eating disorder concerns. [2]

Iowa patients can participate in intensive outpatient clinics, which run more frequently, longer, or more intensive therapy programs. Or they can attend regular outpatient treatment, which generally consists of a regular therapy appointment and possibly additional help, such as eating disorder support group therapy.

Outpatient care is ideal for those who have their eating disorder symptoms mostly under control and are able to actively participate in social responsibilities like work or school but who would like ongoing support in their recovery journey.

Outpatient Treatment in Iowa

There are multiple Iowa eating disorder treatment centers offering outpatient treatment, including both the Psychiatric Associates and The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Additional Eating Disorder Resources in Iowa

Aside from direct eating disorder treatment programs in Iowa, there are a number of additional resources which may help you or your loved one find the information you need, including:

It’s possible that other eating disorder resource centers exist in Iowa. An internet search can be helpful, or you can ask these organizations for more information.

Iowa Eating Disorder Support Groups

Whether virtual or in-person, eating disorder support groups offer another level of help and care for those dealing with eating disorders.

Some Iowa eating disorder support group options include:

These programs create a community of people going through similar difficulties and create a space where they can share advice and experience.

Iowa Eating Disorder Treatment Center Considerations

Choosing an eating disorder treatment center can be an overwhelming process. Aside from the best level of care for your or your loved one, there are a number of other considerations to keep in mind.

Licensing and Accreditation

While Iowa requires all staff members to be appropriately licensed, it never hurts to double-check which credentials the treatment team at your preferred treatment center has. Some staff members may have additional licenses that allow them to perform the specialized treatment you or your loved one may be interested in.

Accreditation offers another level of assurance that a program meets certain industry standards. Approval from The Joint Commission or CARF demonstrates that the treatment center strives to meet high standards of care and implements best practices in how they operate.

Unfortunately, eating disorder programs in Iowa and elsewhere are often very expensive. As such, most people examining treatment programs must take insurance considerations into account.

You can start your search by contacting your insurance company directly. They will likely be able to direct you to programs that are in-network and, therefore, will be much more affordable or likely to be covered by your plan.

Even if you’ve already found a program that you like, you should call them to check that they can or will accept your insurance. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing a hefty bill and have to reconsider your options further down the road once relationships with a treatment team have already been established.

Most eating disorder treatment centers in Iowa will have staff members specifically trained in insurance considerations. They can help walk you through the process and ensure your treatment will be at least partially covered.

Where possible, the treatment center should be close to where the patient lives in Iowa.

For inpatient and residential care, proximity to treatment means family and friends can more easily provide support to their loved one undergoing care.

During the partial hospitalization program or outpatient treatment phase, proximity can help ensure a patient makes it to their appointments. In these cases, it may be important to consider factors like public transportation or how close a treatment center is to your work or home.

Between dealing with serious health concerns, insurance information, and a number of other factors, finding the right kind of eating disorder treatment can be an overwhelming process.

One way to help you streamline your options is by asking yourself some key questions about any centers you may be interested in, including: [4]

  • How does the center communicate with the patient’s family doctors and other doctors who may routinely provide care?
  • What are your criteria for determining whether a patient needs to be partially or fully hospitalized?
  • What happens in counseling sessions? Will there be individual and group sessions?
  • Will there be family sessions?
  • How will the family be prepared for the patient’s discharge?
  • How does the care team measure success for the patient?
  • How do you decide when a patient is ready to leave?
  • How is that transition managed with the patient and family?
  • What after-care plans do you have in place, and at what point do you begin planning for discharge?

These questions can help you find the best options for you and help you realize what your priorities are when seeking out the appropriate type of care.

Finding Help for an Eating Disorder in Iowa

If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to seek out help. These conditions are dangerous and often get worse the longer time goes on. They can even be deadly if left untreated.

If you’re unsure where to start looking on your treatment journey, you can consult your primary care physician, therapist, or another trusted medical professional. These experts are often versed in eating disorders and can help point you in the direction of successful programs or help you determine the next best steps.

A number of eating disorder hotlines can also help offer additional information. But regardless of where you look for help, the most important part of the journey is taking that first step. It’s often the one that helps you land on the road to a healthier and happier future.


  1. Taulli, T. (2022, September 1). How a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) Works for Mental Health Treatment. GoodRx Health. Accessed May 2023.
  2. When is Outpatient Treatment for Bulimia an Option? Center for Discovery Eating Disorder Treatment. Accessed May 2023.
  3. Sarkis, S. (2021, February 14). Online Therapy Just As Effective As In-Person Sessions. Wall Street Journal. Accessed May 2023. 
  4. Selecting a Treatment Center for Your Loved One. National Eating Disorders Association. Accessed May 2023.

Last Update | 06 - 15 - 2022

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