Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research

Intensive Outpatient Program

Adult Intensive Outpatient Programs

Torrey Pines

The UCSD Intensive Outpatient Program for Eating Disorders is an intensive treatment program for individuals with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) or Bulimia Nervosa (BN) who:

  • Require more structure and supervision than can be provided in an outpatient program setting
  • Are medically stable enough to not necessitate hospitalization
  • In some cases, are "stepping down" from an inpatient/residential setting, and need help generalizing skills to an outpatient environment

This program is evidence-based, with a focus on learning skills for managing emotions and stopping eating disordered behaviors. Patients who already have outpatient therapists are encouraged to keep seeing them during non-program hours.

We believe that eating disorder behaviors are based in emotion dysregulation. People with eating disorders often have temperaments that are predisposed to anxiety and depression, or have been exposed to stressful and traumatic life events that cause intense negative emotions. Eating disorder behaviors (1) represent attempts to cope with or control negative emotions, and (2) cause more negative emotions to develop because relationships become strained, eating becomes more difficult, energy level drops, etc. For these reasons, our program primarily uses the model of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). We intensively teach skills for dealing with emotions and help people to translate these skills to their lives outside of treatment. DBT skills have also been shown to be useful in the treatment of several disorders that often co-occur with eating disorders, including substance use, borderline personality disorder, and depression. Thus, our treatment approach can help patients who are dealing with complicated comorbidities.

Treatment Team is led by Dr. Mary Ellen Trunko, Dr. Liana Abascal and Dr. Julie Trim

Treatment Components

Individual therapy: Each patient is assigned an individual therapist from our program. These sessions are scheduled once a week for 50 minutes. This gives patients time to process individual responses to treatment.

Group therapy: We have many groups available in the IOP including: Dialectical Behavior therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), process groups, and relapse prevention. Your schedule will partially determine which groups you participate in.

Psychiatric consultation: Each patient will be given a full psychiatric evaluation upon admission to the IOP. Our psychiatrist will consult with the patient’s existing psychiatrist if they have one. In addition, our psychiatrist will coordinate medical care closely with the primary care physician, ensuring regular labs, vitals and general medical condition is monitored closely.

Art Therapy: This group provides patients with the opportunity to be less linear in their thinking. By drawing, painting, and expressing their feelings through art they can access hidden issues and learn how to uncover them in a supportive environment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Therapy is offered in a group setting and offers patients the opportunity to work on their dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs. These beliefs can either support recovery or support the eating disorder. By changing the way that patients think about their self, body, food, relationships etc. recovery can be strengthened.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This group is designed to help patients learn how to regulate emotions and become better able to manage distress. Coping skills are taught by staff and homework is assigned.

Meals: This group is designed to help patients to cope with eating a meal in front of others and keeping it down. Patients confront their fears by being exposed to the feared object (food, fullness, etc) and response prevention (staying in the room and eating the required amount). Exposure and response prevention is a powerful method to reduce anxiety.

Family/Couples Therapy: Individuals can bring in family members, partners, etc. for family therapy. Families are viewed as vitally important in the recovery of their son or daughter. Although families are not responsible for creating the eating disorder, their help is essential for the recovery of their family member.

Goal Setting: Each treatment day, patients engage in a goal setting process to help them continue their progress when at home. Goals are related to reducing eating disorder behaviors such as bingeing and purging or restricting. Patients are encouraged to set reasonable goals and get feedback from both staff and other patients.

Nutrition Education: Our registered dietitian leads this group which is designed to help patients to unlearn the myths they have about food, metabolism, weight, and nutrition. Patients are required to fill out meal plan reports after they are given a meal plan to follow which meets their individual needs.

Process group:This group is less structured than the other groups in order to provide a time for patients to bring up topics and issues of their choice. Group leaders provide a safe environment for patients to discuss personal issues.

Psychoeducation: Therapy is offered in a group setting and covers a variety of topics such as: role of dysregulated emotions in eating disorders, body image, anger management, stress management, and assertiveness.


When and where is the program held?

The program is located within our clinic (see "Contact Us" on our homepage). Patients can come three to five days per week.


How does payment work?

Payment arrangements can be made by using insurance or cash payments.

Contact our Insurance Coordinator Christina Vizcarra at (858) 246-0997 or for a list of our contracted insurance companies or for any questions regarding insurance coverage.