Combining day treatment and outpatient treatment for eating disorders: findings from a naturalistic setting



Day treatment programs for individuals with eating disorders (ED) have been the subject of research and are promoted as an alternative to inpatient treatment due to their therapeutic and economic advantages, but have not regularly been implemented in regular care.


We investigated the long-term effectiveness of a transdiagnostic combined eating disorder treatment program which consisted of an 8-week day treatment phase followed by an average of 19 sessions of outpatient treatment over an average of 39 weeks in a naturalistic setting.


We accepted 148 patients with different diagnoses of eating disorders into our combined treatment program. We assessed weight, behavioral eating disorder symptoms and eating disorder related cognitions and attitudes at the beginning and the end of the day treatment phase and after 6, 12 and 26 months.


Over the course of the 8-week day treatment phase, patients with initial binge eating, purging and/or fasting behavior reduced these symptoms by 91%, 90% and, 86%. Patients who were underweight at baseline gained on average 1.05 BMI points (d = 0.76). In addition, eating disorder related cognitions and attitudes of all patients significantly improved with large effect sizes (d = 1.12). On average, all improvements remained stable during the follow-up period.


Our findings add to the existing studies on day treatment and support previously found encouraging effects of treatment programs that combine day treatment and consecutive outpatient treatment for eating disorders.

Level of evidence

Level III, longitudinal cohort study.

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Katrin Schuster, Susann Theuring, Katja Hergesell, Jana Kullmann, Annett Joerss (staff therapists). Eike Fittig, Peter Musiat (data management).

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Correspondence to Ina Beintner.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008.

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Beintner, I., Hütter, K., Gramatke, K. et al. Combining day treatment and outpatient treatment for eating disorders: findings from a naturalistic setting. Eat Weight Disord 25, 519–530 (2020).

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  • Eating disorders
  • Day treatment
  • Naturalistic study