Eating disorders are a group of conditions that include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, restrictive food intake disorder, pica, and ruminative disorder, among others.
When searching for the right treatment for an eating disorder, the process of choosing a good therapist can at times be overwhelming.
In this article, we’ve looked at platforms that can connect you with an eating disorder therapist, online or in person. We’ve also explained the most common therapeutic approaches used for treating different eating disorders.
Want to skip right to the suggestions for eating disorder therapists? Here are our 2 recommended therapy solutions:
Eating disorder therapist near me
Here are two of the best places to find an eating disorder therapist, near you or online.
BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that specializes in helping people suffering from many different kinds of mental health issues, including eating disorders.
One of the most effective therapeutic approaches for treating eating disorders is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). On BetterHelp, you can find many therapists specifically trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, with years of experience providing this type of support.
Each of their counselors and therapists are licensed, qualified professionals, with thousands of hours of therapy experience. These therapists each have doctoral or Master’s degrees, and many of them specialize in CBT, as well as other behavioral therapy approaches that can help with eating disorders.
To begin with BetterHelp, the first step is to fill out an online questionnaire, providing details about your eating disorder. They will then match you with an eating disorder therapist, who has experience in helping people with similar issues to what you’re facing.
BetterHelp will also ask whether you’re looking for a therapist for yourself or your child. If it’s your child that’s struggling with an eating disorder, BetterHelp will ask you if you want to stay on their page or if you want to be transferred to Teen Counseling, which is another BetterHelp service that specializes in helping teenagers.
Once matched with a therapist, BetterHelp offers video calls, phone calls, and a text message system, which you can use to communicate with your therapist. You will typically have one video therapy session each week, if you’re available, at a time that suits you. You can message your therapist in between sessions to discuss any questions you may have, or to get help with your eating disorder.
The downside to BetterHelp is they can only help with one aspect of treating an eating disorder – the psychological aspect. For serious conditions, it’s important to formulate a complete treatment plan, including nutritional education with the help of a registered dietician.
Eating Disorder Hope (EDH) is an online community that provides information, education, support, and resources to people suffering from eating disorders. This platform also serves as a directory that helps you find eating disorder therapists near you, as well as different inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.
Upon visiting the EDH website, you can search through the directory and find therapists in your state. Eating Disorder Hope has gathered lists of available professionals, their contact information, address, the type of therapy they provide, the types of patients they serve, and the treatment settings offered (such as online and in-person therapy).
There is also a list of featured therapists and eating disorder specialists, who have been carefully reviewed by the Eating Disorder Hope team. You can find a psychologist near you by simply clicking on the state you’re in, and you’ll see a list of accredited professionals in your area. Currently, most states are covered, and have at least a few different psychologists and treatment centers in major cities.
Depending on the severity of your eating disorder, you can also find treatment centers in your area. These treatment centers offer access to a wide range of specialists, including therapists, nutritionists, and counselors, who can help to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your eating disorder.
Eating Disorder Hope doesn’t only serve as a directory. This platform offers a range of informational and educational resources for people who want to learn about eating disorders and different types of treatments. These educational materials include books about eating disorders, educational videos, and even recovery tips.
You can also find eating disorder support groups and read inspirational stories from people who have experience a similar disorder. Plus, all of the tools and information provided on this online community are completely free to use.
Online vs face-to-face eating disorder therapy
When searching for help for any kind of mental health issue, one of the most important things to do is carefully choose the right type of therapy for you.
In the busy world we live in, finding time for therapy can be challenging, especially if attending sessions requires commuting, sitting in traffic, and traveling long distances to your therapist. This is especially likely to be a problem if you live in a small town or city, with few therapists nearby who are qualified to help with eating disorders.
Some benefits of online therapy include the ability to better fit therapy in your schedule, the possibility of attending therapy wherever you are (including from the comfort of your home), and the ability to reach your therapist over text message when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
However, traditional therapy is still a better fit for some people, especially those who need face-to-face contact to open up, and who feel uncomfortable discussing their issues over the phone or computer.
Effectiveness of online therapy for eating disorders
According to the American Psychological Association, online therapy can be just as effective as traditional therapy, especially psychotherapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which is often used when treating eating disorders.
Research shows that CBT-based interventions can help with reducing the eating disorder psychopathology, and can also assist with preventing relapse to a degree.
However, these findings should be taken with caution. Researching the effectiveness of online therapy for treating eating disorders is a fairly new field and more data is needed to support the claims.
If you have a serious eating disorder that is affecting your physical and mental wellbeing, it’s crucial to seek help in person. Although psychotherapy is an important step in the process of overcoming an eating disorder, it’s often necessary to formulate a more holistic treatment plan, with the help of a dietician and possibly a doctor, as well as a psychologist.
Cost of online vs face-to-face therapy
One of the biggest benefits of online therapy is the price. For therapists who provide therapy online, the costs of the business are usually cheaper. They don’t have to rent an office, spend money on traveling, or pay for other personnel, like a receptionist.
For these reasons, online therapy often costs less than in-person therapy. This applies to eating disorder therapy as well.
For example, in-person Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) usually costs $100 to $200 per session in the United States. To complete a course of CBT, you would typically have to attend approximately sixteen sessions, meaning you’d have to spend about $2000, or possibly more.
Online CBT costs significantly less, ranging from $60 to $90 per session, which sums up to $960 to $1440 for sixteen sessions, allowing you to save a significant amount of money.
Price-wise, the biggest downside of online therapy is that it’s sometimes not covered by insurance. Only some online therapy providers are covered under Employee Assistance Programs.
However, most online therapy platforms, including BetterHelp, offer financial aid for students and veterans, amongst other social groups. You may also be able to access a discount if you’re otherwise struggling financially, due to unexpected medical bills for example.
Therapies used to treat eating disorders
Treatment plans for eating disorders vary greatly based on the type of the disorder, the severity of the condition, and the presence of co-occurring disorders.
Since eating disorders can be quite complex, the treatment will often include a range of professionals working together to provide proper care. One part of the treatment will include therapy.
In this part of the article, we will look at the most common therapies used in treating eating disorders.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Eating disorders commonly involve unhealthy thought patterns regarding food, weight, and appearance.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a therapeutic approach that identifies unhelpful and unhealthy beliefs and thought patterns that might contribute to the persistence of the eating disorder. This approach has been the most effective in treating bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
A typical CBT-based eating disorder treatment might include meal planning, documenting thoughts and feelings before and after meals, learning strategies to prevent compensatory behaviors such as bingeing, psychoeducation, and relapse prevention.
An example of negative thinking patterns that CBT-based therapies challenge are thoughts such as “food is evil” or “food is dangerous.” CBT discourages these negative thinking patterns and establishes healthier ones in their place.
Two more CBT-based therapies often used when treating eating disorders are:
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which has the goal of helping you accept your feelings and change your behavior to align with your core values.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which focuses on helping you learn how to manage difficult emotions, such as stress associated with over or under-eating.
Family-based treatment (FBT)
Family-based treatment has been proven to be one of the most effective treatments for teens and adults with anorexia nervosa. This approach doesn’t only treat the person suffering from an eating disorder, but also sees family members as a vital part of the treatment.
At the beginning of FBT, the entire family sits down for a meal, and the therapist observes their eating habits. Parents are then educated and empowered to take charge of their child’s meals. They prepare, serve and supervise the child’s meals.
They are also responsible for monitoring their child after the meal to prevent compensatory behaviors, such as purging.
The therapy has three steps:
- Full parental control, during which all energy-dense meals are planned and supervised by parents,
- The gradual return of control to the child happens when they have gained back some of the lost weight, and unhealthy behaviors are mostly under control,
- Establishing autonomy, during which the child is well enough to gain back control over his or her eating habits. This is the part of the treatment where co-occurring mental health issues can be addressed.
Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
This psychotherapeutic approach is one of the most effective treatments for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. During this treatment, the disorder will be explored in the context of social and interpersonal relationships.
Your therapist will help you understand how relationship issues (such as family conflict) might have contributed to your eating disorder, and help you and your family develop strategies that can improve your communication.
Specifically, this approach seeks to mend interpersonal relationships that may have suffered during/after the emergence of the eating disorder. It helps you to develop stronger, more supportive relationships that can serve to support you during difficult times, especially with your close family, or your partner.
Medical care and nutrition therapy
Some cases of eating disorders can become severe, especially those that include significant weight loss, such as anorexia nervosa. The consequences of extreme weight loss are numerous and even life-threatening.
Malnourishment and low energy intake impact the entire body and the recovery has to be handled delicately. This is why a team of professionals has to work together to help the patient.
Treatment can be provided in outpatient and inpatient facilities and can involve medical care workers, nutritionists, dietitians, and therapists. Before you decide what sort of medical care would be right for you or your family member, or if you’re unsure whether or not medical care is necessary, make sure to contact your doctor.
Finding the right therapy for eating disorders is an important step towards recovery.
Since there are so many different approaches, the process can be overwhelming and arduous. Platforms such as BetterHelp and Eating Disorder Hope can help make this process easier, by connecting you with a therapist, and providing resources to help you or a loved one recover from their disorder.
If you’re still not sure how to find the right eating disorders therapist or you have any questions, leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you.