The Importance of Early Change in Eating Disorder Care

Early change in treatment is one of the most replicated and well-established predictors of a positive outcome in psychotherapy. In other words, patients whose symptoms decrease notably early on in treatment (roughly within the first four to eight weeks) have a better chance of getting better and staying better in the long term. So on average, compared to patients who respond more slowly to treatment, these early responders require significantly fewer treatment sessions, have less severe symptoms at the end of treatment, and are much more likely to reach full remission.

A recent meta-analysis of the literature highlights how this principle applies to patients with a range of common eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. The available evidence indicates that progress monitoring, patient engagement, and potential therapy modification should be front and center in eating disorder treatment with a laser focus on rapid movement at the outset of treatment.

Columbus Park’s Early Change Model is designed with rapid response to our interventions as the primary goal of the first four to eight weeks of treatment.

Our clinical structure and protocols are based on a) our experience with thousands of patients over 14 years in practice and b) the most potent evidence-based treatments designed specifically for eating disorders. 

To support early change in our patient’s treatments, we consider a number of factors:

  • We need to train and retain the highest caliber of clinicians to deliver evidence-based treatments with skill and tailor them to fit each individual patient like a glove. 
  • We have to harness clients’ motivation, secure their commitment, and increase their self-efficacy. Connection to and engagement in treatment is essential right from the start. 
  • We have to be sure that treatment has a beginning, middle, and – most importantly – an end. We work efficiently, often asking ourselves, “How are we doing?” Columbus Park gets feedback from clients regularly using reliable measures, and we’re always prepared to modify, shift, and regroup to suit patients’ needs and responses. We know that a combination of rigor and flexibility is the best way to get the fast results that predict long-term recovery, and we’re proud of the positive outcomes that the individuals we treat consistently show.

Making real, sustainable lifestyle change takes time, and treatment for eating disorders is no different. But we know from the research that change should start promptly. While the full course of treatment may take several months, we should see notable, measurable shifts within the first few weeks.  


To learn more about eating disorder treatment designed for early change, please refer to this piece, Advances in Eating Disorder Treatment, and check out other posts on our blog.