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Treatment pathways for adults

Home ~ My recovery journey ~ Treatment pathways for adults

This page provides an overview of the treatment pathways for people in Victoria over the age of 18. After reading this page we encourage you to speak with your GP or leading clinician to determine the most suitable treatment pathway for you or your loved one.

Getting started

There is good evidence that generally, the quicker you start treatment for an eating disorder, the shorter the time will be until you are recovered. However, try to remember that anyone can recover, even if you have been experiencing your eating disorder for a long time.

Starting treatment for an eating disorder can be challenging in many ways. We often hear from people who don’t feel they are ‘sick enough’ to warrant treatment, or they are struggling to find the desire to get better. Understanding the stages of change can be a useful way to help you understand how you’re feeling.

Another challenge to starting treatment is understanding what your options are and how to access them. On this page we have listed options for accessing treatment in Victoria. A GP can usually manage your referrals into the listed treatment options, however there are options for self-referral for some services.

A reminder that if you are yet to receive a diagnosis of an eating disorder, it’s important you visit a GP. Find out the steps for getting the most out of your appointment with a GP here.

Treatment overview

Eating disorder treatment pathways for adults in Victoria is structured into 3-tiers. There are public and private options in all tiers.

  • Community Based Treatment
  • Day Programs
  • Inpatient treatment 

In general, treatment will involve a combination of the following: 

  • Psychotherapy (therapy, counselling or psychological intervention usually through a psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health social worker) 
  • Physical health management  (usually through a GP if accessing treatment in the community, or a team of medical professionals in an inpatient setting)  
  • Nutritional counselling (usually through an Accredited Practicing Dietitian)  
  • Self-help (learning and avoiding triggers, applying coping skills, attending support groups etc.) 

Sometimes it can be trial and error to find what works best for you or your loved one. As hard as it can be, it’s important not to give up trying when it comes to treatment. 

Please note that all information provided on this page is relevant to adults living in Victoria only. Different states have different pathways to access care. If you access treatment via the public health system, you will enter into your local Adult Mental Health Service, or AHMS. AHMS services are geographically based and a GP usually provides the referral, although you can also self-refer through your local triage line. To find your local AMHS service, please see here.  AHMS services can connect you with eating disorder programs in the public health system, such as day programs and, if required, inpatient treatment.  

Treatment approaches used for eating disorders

When you’ve entered the appropriate treatment pathway, you will be introduced to certain treatment approaches that have been proven to assist people with eating disorders.

Learn more about evidence-based treatment approaches

Community based treatment

Most people with an eating disorder will access community based treatment. 

Community based treatment refers to sessions or programs that can occur around a person’s everyday life, such as work or study. 

Community based treatment can be accessed via the public system and the private system. Commonly, people with eating disorders will access Medicare subsidies to make community based treatment with private practitioners, such as psychologists and dietitians, more affordable. When accessing treatment from private practitioners, EDV encourage you to work with professionals who use evidence-based treatment models that have proved successful for people with eating disorders.

Finding private practitioners

Given eating disorders are complex mental illnesses, it’s important to find practitioners who are experienced in treating eating disorders. Look for practitioners who list ‘eating disorders’ as a specialty treating area and contact them with further questions, such as what eating disorder training they have received, what specific eating disorders they are experienced with treating, what treatment models they use and what their general approach is. We encourage you to use this consumer checklist developed by the National Eating Disorder Collaboration.

Sometimes it can take a few goes before you find practitioners that you click with. If you need help finding suitable practitioners in your geographic area, please get in touch with the EDV Hub.

Contact the Hub

Outpatient treatment

Another form of community based treatment is outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is connected to public and private hospitals, and can either be accessed on its own, or as a step-down from inpatient treatment (see below). Many people with eating disorders do not need 24-hour care, but they do need ongoing treatment. These people may attend outpatient units on a regular basis, where they may be seen by a team of health professionals from many different disciplines, or they may see a solo practitioner like a dietitian, a psychologist or a psychiatrist. People are encouraged to maintain everyday responsibilities while attending an outpatient program, like attending school/university or going to work.  

Public outpatient treatment programs in Victoria

For those aged up to 24/25:
For those aged over 18:

Day program treatment

Day programs are offered in the public and private sector and provide an intermediary level of support for someone who is recovering from an eating disorder.

Day programs provide a structured day with supervised or supported meals and eating, along with ongoing therapy during the daytime.

Day programs can be up to five days a week and allow the individual to live at home and benefit from family interaction overnight and at weekends.

Public eating disorder day programs in Victoria

Private eating disorder day programs:

Inpatient treatment

Inpatient treatment programs may be required for someone who is acutely medically unwell or has severe symptoms. Inpatient programs can be in a specialized eating disorder ward in a hospital, in a medical or mental health unit, or in a private clinic. 24-hour support and care is provided. 

Inpatient programs generally focus first on medical stabilisation and weight restoration.  However, inpatient treatment can also be suitable for someone who doesn’t require medical stabilisation but still requires 24 hour support due to self-harm, suicidal thoughts and eating disorder behaviours. 

People with Anorexia Nervosa in particular may be admitted to hospital for weight stabilisation.  A range of medical interventions may be required with inpatient treatment.  

Public eating disorder inpatient treatment services

Please note that whilst some hospitals may not have specialist eating disorder inpatient programs, they may still accept individuals for medical care and weight stabilization. This is particularly relevant in areas outside of metropolitan Melbourne. 

Private eating disorder inpatient treatment services: 

Help navigating the system

At EDV we know that navigating the healthcare system can be overwhelming. If you would like to speak to someone further about your options for accessing treatment, please reach out to the EDV Hub. Our trained volunteers can help you find private practitioners who specialise in treating eating disorders, as well as guide you through your public health options.

Get in touch the EDV Hub here.

Understanding, accessing and affording eating disorder treatment – podcast episode



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