Approach to Eating Disorder Treatment at Life Works

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that typically cause people to develop an obsession with their weight, body shape and appearance. This preoccupation can lead sufferers to interact with food in unhealthy ways, such as starving themselves, eating huge amounts of food in one sitting, or trying to control their weight using harmful methods such as abusing laxatives and making themselves sick after meals. Without specialist eating disorder treatment and therapy, these conditions can become progressively worse over time, can have a hugely detrimental impact on an individual’s mental and physical health, and can even result in death.

At Life Works, our market-leading eating disorder treatment programme combines practical dietetic techniques, tried and tested therapies and a highly skilled multidisciplinary team. Our expert psychiatrists, therapists, nutritionist, dietitian and other eating disorder specialists are dedicated to delivering exceptional support for your eating disorder, providing each and every one of our clients with both one-to-one and group-based interventions. We ensure that you are placed at the centre of your treatment and recovery journey, allowing for an individualised treatment experience and the best possible outcomes. Our specialists will help you to understand the factors that are contributing to your illness, teach you skills and coping mechanisms, and empower you to achieve a full and sustainable recovery. We can also work with your family and loved ones to help them to understand how best to support you.

All of the eating disorder treatment that we deliver at Life Works is underpinned by robust National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, ensuring that the therapy and support that you receive with us is of the highest quality. In addition, our highly trained team are committed to remaining up to date with current research, in order to ensure that their practice is guided by the very latest thinking in the field of eating disorder treatment. Therefore, at Life Works, we are extremely well-placed to deliver outstanding eating disorder treatment, and produce the most positive outcomes for each individual who seeks support with us.

We are able to provide expert treatment for a range of eating disorders, including:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED), also known as ‘atypical eating disorders’ or ‘eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS)’

At Life Works, we are able to deliver a wide range of treatment formats and therapy types, whilst ensuring that you receive personalised care and attention. This bespoke approach empowers you to address your unique condition and challenges, regain control over your thoughts processes and eating habits, and take steps towards the healthy, happy and fulfilling life that you deserve.

Eating disorder treatment programme at Life Works

The primary goal of eating disorder treatment at Life Works is to empower each and every one of our clients to achieve psychological wellbeing and recovery. This involves helping you to:

  • Understand the nature of your eating disorder, including any underlying issues which could be influencing your unhealthy eating habits
  • Develop coping mechanisms and skills to help you to deal with your negative thoughts and body image
  • Learn to regulate your emotions and tolerate distress in healthier ways
  • Identify and challenge unhealthy thought processes
  • Develop an understanding of healthy diet and nutrition

The eating disorder programme at Life Works also helps clients to achieve physical recovery (which may include returning to a healthy weight), normalise eating and body image, and reintegrate with relationships, work and studies.

For more information on Life Works eating disorder services, you can download our brochure here

Free Eating Disorder Assessment

At Life Works, we understand that acknowledging that you have an eating disorder, and seeking help for this, can be challenging and overwhelming. That’s why we aim to make this step as simple and straightforward as possible by offering a free initial eating disorder assessment.

This initial assessment consists of dietetic, therapeutic and GP assessments, and provides you with the opportunity to:


  • Meet face to face with a member of our highly skilled eating disorder treatment team
  • Discuss your unhealthy eating habits and the unique challenges that you are facing
  • Begin to develop an understanding of the underlying triggers and potential causes for your eating disorder
  • Discuss your individual concerns, needs and options
  • Explore the impact that your eating disorder is having on your life as well as the lives of your loved ones
  • Talk through the eating disorder treatment programme at Life Works, and how your individual needs can be met as part of this
  • Ask any questions that you may have on Life Works’ eating disorder treatment programme
  • Take a look around our beautiful rehab centre and meet our specialist eating disorder treatment team


This initial assessment can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for you, and is conducted in the utmost confidence. Ultimately, the aim of our free assessment is to assess your suitability for Life Works’ eating disorder treatment programme, and help you to develop an understanding of the journey that you could be taking towards recovery and wellbeing.

Treatment options at Life Works

We offer a number of different treatment options at Life Works:

Inpatient (residential) eating disorder treatment

The full eating disorder treatment programme at Life Works takes place on an inpatient basis. This consists of clients staying at Life Works on a residential basis for between 28 and 42 days (although this can be longer if needed), to undergo intensive treatment and therapy for their eating disorder.

Inpatient eating disorder treatment provides you with a highly structured environment, as well as the chance to spend time away from your usual living situation in order to remove any negative influences that might be exacerbating your eating disorder.

During inpatient treatment at Life Works, we provide 24-hour support and ensure that your eating disorder is constantly being monitored and reviewed. As well as being supported by our specialist multidisciplinary team during inpatient treatment, we also offer round-the-clock nursing care as well as access to local GPs, in order to ensure that you also receive support for any physical health needs during your stay with us.

Clients can complete a 28 to 42-day stay with us, before taking a step-down in treatment intensity to eating disorder day care or outpatient treatment if either of these options are deemed as being the next best step for you. Alternatively, inpatient treatment at Life Works can also be used as a step-up in intensity from our day care and outpatient treatment options, if it transpires that you need more intensive support for your eating disorder.

Day care eating disorder treatment

Eating disorder treatment at Life Works can also be accessed in a day care capacity. Day care consists of clients attending the centre for either half days or full days, and taking part in eating disorder therapy sessions. Day care treatment can be useful for individuals who do not need intensive 24-hour care for their eating disorder, but would still benefit from some level of structured, ongoing support to help them to manage it.

Eating disorder day care may be used as a step-up in intensity from outpatient treatment, or as a step-down in intensity from our inpatient treatment programme.

Outpatient eating disorder treatment

Outpatient eating disorder treatment consists of you attending Life Works to receive therapy for your eating disorder. These sessions usually last for one hour, take place on a weekly basis, and can be flexible according to your work or personal commitments. This form of treatment is beneficial for clients who need ongoing therapeutic input for their eating disorder, but their eating disorder is not severe enough to warrant more intensive day care or inpatient treatment.

As well as being used as an entry point to eating disorder treatment, outpatient treatment can also be used as a step-down from the more intensive day care or inpatient treatment options.

Therapy formats at Life Works

Eating disorder therapy at Life Works is delivered in a number of different formats:

Group therapy for eating disorders

The eating disorder treatment programme at Life Works is predominantly group-based, and this form of therapy takes place with a wider group of Life Works clients.

All group therapy sessions are facilitated by our expert therapists, and the purpose of these sessions is to encourage you to share your experiences and feelings with other members of the group, offer support and guidance, and learn from each other in a highly supportive environment. This form of therapy is evidence-based and widely used in the treatment of eating disorders.

1:1 therapy for eating disorders

One-to-one eating disorder therapy takes place on an individual basis between yourself and a member of our expert team, whether this is one of our specialist consultant psychiatrists, our dedicated nutritionist or dietitian, or a therapist. One-to-one sessions are designed to provide you with a compassionate and safe space in which to explore your personal issues and challenges in relation to your eating disorder, and connect with the feelings that are associated with these issues.

Family therapy for eating disorders

Family therapy takes place between yourself, a therapist and your immediate family or loved ones. This form of therapy encourages all parties to have an open and honest conversation about your eating disorder and how this has impacted on the broader family group, gain an insight into each other’s point of view, and agree on the ways in which you can support each other more effectively in the future. This technique is evidence-based and has been found to be effective in helping people to explore their eating disorder and set targets for the future.

Types of therapy offered at Life Works

We are also able to offer a wide variety of evidence-based therapies at Life Works which can be delivered on an inpatient, day care or outpatient basis, as well as in different formats. The therapies that we offer at Life Works include practical dietetic interventions, approaches that have been specifically designed to treat eating disorders, and other evidence-based techniques that have been adapted for use in eating disorder treatment.

Practical dietetic techniques

We offer a range of practical dietetic techniques as part of the eating disorder treatment programme at Life Works, which have been designed to help to gradually expose clients to the concepts of healthy eating, diet and nutrition. These consist of:

Personalised meal plans

During your stay at Life Works, you will have a personalised meal plan consisting of three meals and three snacks per day. Our dietitian will plan your meals with you on a weekly basis, ensuring that the meals that you will be eating are nutritious and balanced, whilst also taking individual preferences into account wherever possible.

Weekly shopping groups

Once a week, clients are given a shopping list and visit a local supermarket, alongside a therapist, to shop for ingredients. The aim of this activity is to enable you to practise life skills relating to nutrition, learn to shop for balanced meals, experience exposure, and challenge unhelpful behaviour and thought patterns.

Weekly cooking groups

Following the shopping group, clients are given the opportunity to prepare and cook their own meal, based on the ingredients that have been purchased at the supermarket. Again, you are supported by a therapist during this process, who will help to make the experience as relaxing and ‘normal’ as possible for you. This helps to expose you to food and recipes, and provides you with valuable skills to take home.

Weekly psycho-educational groups

You will also receive nutritional psycho-education sessions, known as ‘Food and Me’, as part of the eating disorder treatment programme at Life Works. Within these groups, you will learn all about healthy and balanced diets, the nutritional value of the different food groups, food ‘myths’, as well as eating disorders themselves.

Therapeutic approaches specific to eating disorder clients

The Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA)

MANTRA is a NICE-approved treatment method, which is used specifically in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. Essentially, MANTRA is a therapy manual which focuses on changing the rigid thinking style, emotional states and unhelpful beliefs that people with anorexia hold. MANTRA is typically delivered on a one-to-one basis but has been adapted at Life Works so that this can be delivered in group format, which is an innovative offering.

Body image/acceptance groups

Life Works’ body image/acceptance groups have been designed to help you to identify the thoughts and beliefs that may be influencing and exacerbating your eating disorder. This group has both psycho-educational and experiential elements, and encourages you to explore your thoughts and feelings in relation to your body image, as well as the underlying reasons for these. Then, instead of trying to prevent or change these thoughts or feelings, the group aims to change the way that you respond and relate to them.

Dance and movement groups

Our dance and movement groups help our eating disorder clients to get in touch with their bodies through somatic movement. These groups are underpinned by the idea that movement, communication and expression are all interlinked, and the mind and body are connected, so any changes in the mind affect the body and vice versa. These groups bring together your emotional, cognitive, physical, social and spiritual ‘selves’ in a creative way and also help you to look at your relationships with other people.

Understanding emotions groups

Life Works’ understanding emotions groups help you to develop an understanding of why you feel the way you do about food and your body. You will also be encouraged to explore what emotions ‘feel’ like in the body e.g. how does anger ‘feel’, how does sadness ‘feel’, how does fear ‘feel’, in order to enhance your ability to identify, manage and express difficult emotions.

Relapse prevention groups

These groups help clients to understand what relapse is and consider their own triggers and warning signs for relapse, before integrating these into a personalised relapse prevention plan. During these sessions, you will map out what a relapse might look like for you, before planning what to do in the event that this happens. By doing this, you are able to achieve a sense of responsibility and independence, which are essential to recovery and wellbeing.

Eating disorder log book

All of our eating disorder clients are given a log book when they first start treatment at Life Works, which essentially acts as a ‘diary’ for you to complete throughout your treatment journey. We have dedicated log book sessions where you are encouraged to write down your personal experiences, feelings and concerns. This can be a really useful tool in helping you to identify and connect with your emotions and also to reflect on your progress as time goes on.

Meal and post-meal support, with input from the full multidisciplinary team

Members of our expert team attend all meals with our clients in order to provide support and guidance if difficult emotions arise during this time. We also provide post-meal support after every meal and snack, whereby clients and a member of the team spend time discussing any concerns, difficulties, positive experiences, or feelings that they have experienced during the meal. These sessions provide you with the chance to calm down if you’re feeling anxious after eating and form an essential part of recovery.

Other therapeutic interventions

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) informed groups

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a well-known therapeutic approach that is widely used to treat eating disorders. CBT is based on the premise that eating disorders develop and are often intensified as a result of a series of deeply ingrained, unhealthy thought patterns. Therefore, the aim of CBT is to help you to challenge the dysfunctional beliefs that you hold about food and body image and change the way that you think, feel and respond to them. For example, in the context of eating disorders, you may hold the negative belief that you are overweight, despite all of the evidence that contradicts this. This may therefore compel you to engage in unhealthy behaviours as a means of reducing your weight. In this situation, CBT would help you to challenge the negative belief that you are overweight and change the way you respond to this.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) informed groups

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is similar to CBT but has been specifically adapted to help individuals who struggle with intense and destructive emotions. In the context of eating disorders, these complex conditions can cause sufferers to experience a whole host of difficult emotions and thoughts, and can even lead to negative behaviours such as self-harm. Therefore, DBT focuses on helping clients to understand and accept themselves in order to reduce distressing emotions and return to a healthier way of life.

Art informed therapy

Art therapy enables clients to use non-verbal forms of expression to help them to connect with subconscious emotions that may be fuelling their eating disorder. Art therapy is an extremely useful tool in the treatment of eating disorders, as it allows you to identify and resolve feelings that may be difficult to articulate with words alone. In addition, through art therapy, clients are able to better understand their negative and often extremely distorted body image, and take steps to change this.


Mindfulness is a well-known therapeutic method that encourages clients to focus on how they feel in the present moment, whilst accepting and processing any negative feelings or thoughts that may be contributing to their eating disorder, without becoming overwhelmed by these.

Drama therapy

Drama therapy is a relational approach to therapy, which offers our eating disorder clients the chance to see themselves as other people see them, explore how the past has influenced current feelings, and change their unhealthy thoughts and behaviour patterns in relation to food and body image. This creative form of therapy draws upon the group’s energy and enables you to release any repressed thoughts or emotions, address your challenges and take steps towards recovery.


Our group shiatsu sessions employ gentle physical exercises and stretching to reduce muscle tension, improve flexibility and relieve joint stiffness. These techniques help clients to learn a more balanced way of movement and also helps to you get more in touch with your body. In addition, clients are introduced to meditation, deep belly breathing, self-affirmation and grounding techniques. This type of treatment focuses on the overall energy pattern within the body and aids the body's natural healing process.

Support groups

In addition to our on-site support and therapeutic offerings, you will also have the option to attend off-site Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous (ABA) meetings if you wish to. These sessions aren’t mandatory and you are free to choose whether you think that these groups will be beneficial for your unique condition and challenges. 

A high quality family programme

We also offer a comprehensive family programme for all residential eating disorder clients, available to those who stay with us for 28 days or more. The purpose of our family programme is to increase honest communication between clients and their family or loved ones, increase awareness of their own and others’ feelings, and enable family members to discuss the impact that their loved one’s eating disorder has had on them as individuals as well as relationships and family dynamics.

You can read more about this offering by accessing our dedicated family programme page.

A comprehensive, free aftercare offering

At Life Works, we are dedicated to your ongoing recovery, which is why we provide comprehensive aftercare support for all clients who complete an inpatient stay with us that lasts for 28 days or more. We provide free aftercare for 12 months, which can be accessed either at nearby Priory Hospital Woking, or in another Priory hospital closer to your home.  

Aftercare consists of ongoing access to therapy groups, talks and advice for clients, as well as family support groups, and we are dedicated to supporting you in your ongoing transition from rehab back to your day-to-day life.

Contact Life Works today

Life Works provides first rate support and guidance, providing a range of treatment programmes. To discuss how we can help you, please call 0808 149 7659 or click here to complete a short enquiry form.


This page was reviewed by Steve Clarke (FdSc, MSc, NCFED) in March 2019, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in March 2021.