Connected Eating’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) was born out of years of a vision to provide a much-needed service that doesn’t exist in Toronto. OHIP funded eating disorders treatment programs are only provided in hospital settings. While these provide an essential service, there are long wait times and often strict eligibility criteria that exclude many people whose eating difficulties are having a significant impact on their functioning.
Susan Osher has done extensive research, visiting several programs in the United States (including the Renfrew Centre, Monte Nido, Aroura, Emily Program), South Africa and Israel. IOPs are commonly offered, bridging the gap between hospital or residential programs and the community services of weekly or biweekly appointments with dietitians, therapists and doctors. It is the ideal step down from inpatient programs or the bridge while waiting for more intensive treatment – so that symptoms do not worsen.
Connected Eating is the only program in Ontario that provides the essential component of eating as a core part of treatment. As Jung encouraged his clients to bring their dreams into their sessions, eating disorders cannot easily be cured by just talking about them. Cooking, touching, grocery shopping, planning and eating are crucial for recovery. The IOP fast tracks this part of recovery by providing multiple opportunities for eating under the supervision of compassionate, caring, skilled practitioners.
The Connected Eating IOP runs three sessions a week for three hours a session. Each session includes a meal and meal support, and group based programming. Group include support groups, nutrition education, yoga and meditation, cooking, meal planning and psychologically based recovery skills.
The level of support provided in the IOP is not offered elsewhere in a community setting in Ontario. The community-based and naturalistic environment in which the IOP is delivered is important because because eating disorders can be very isolating. Great benefits are associated with the provision of treatment in a group setting, which allows clients to receive and give support to other people in similar situations.
The program is unique in that it is accessible and affordable. The IOP is only one of four in the GTA that has been approved for the Waterstone Grant. This means that eligible clients may apply for the grant to fund their treatment at Connected Eating. For other clients not covered through private insurance, the program fees are tax deductible.
Arrival and brief check in to discuss the previous few days
Morning group. Morning groups can include support groups, yoga and meditation focusing on intentions and goal setting, and nutrition education
Lunch. Lunch is provided for each client, and is prepared by a dietitian in accordance with each client's individual meal plan. Lunch is served in a group based setting with staff present to provide meal support.
Afternoon group. Afternoon groups can include meal planning, cooking and meal preparation, and recovery skills
Snack preparation. Each client makes a snack to take home with them., choosing from a variety of provided options. This is supervised by a dietitian.
A final check-out and goodbye.