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How to Choose An Eating Disorder Therapist

Considering eating disorder therapy? Questions to ask.


Choosing Eating Disorder TherapistIf you’ve decided to try eating disorder therapy then it’s important you know how to evaluate therapists so you choose one that will be best suited for your needs.

Depending upon your insurance or financial situation, you will have many great counselors to choose from.

If this person is going to help you (and your loved ones) through one of the most personal, profoundly life-changing times in your life it’s worth learning how to evaluate who you want to work with.

When I started my eating disorder therapy I wanted to try individual counseling to being with.  I wasn’t ready to share my stories in a group and I wanted someone who I could speak to confidentially.  I needed the time in bulimia treatment all to myself and I knew it would be a good way to get to my fundamental problems on a deeper and more direct level.  Also, by having one-on-one treatment, I could create a schedule that worked best for me.

Finding the right bulimia therapy counselor wasn’t as easy as I thought.  I learned a lot through the process and want to share ideas and questions you might consider as you evaluate eating disorder or bulimia treatment providers.  Be sure to download mybulimia stories eBook to learn more about my experience and that of others with various therapy methods.

Getting referrals for local eating disorder therapists

The ideal way to start on your quest for the best therapist is to get referrals from others, if possible.  If friends and family aren’t able to help or you don’t feel comfortable asking, you can get a list of available professionals from sources like or the therapist referral lists from the National Eating Disorders Association.  If you have a family doctor or psychologist you can also ask them for a few professional referrals (this is especially important if your sessions will be covered under insurance and you need to see a therapist “in network”).

Finding the right eating disorder therapy professional for you

The first prerequisite I recommend is to filter for only licensed professional psychologists or psychiatrists with experience working with people with eating disorders.  Preferably you want a professional who has either a large percentage of their practice focused on treating patients with eating disorders  – or better yet – they exclusively treat anorexics and bulimics.  The more relevant experience, and ideally a success record, a therapist has in treating your condition, the better.

How to Interview Therapists

I suggest you start by contacting the therapist candidates on your list to do a thoughtful, but brief, phone interview. Most professionals will appreciate this approach and understand that the relationship between therapist and client is an important decision and should not be entered into lightly.  If you contact them to schedule an interview, tell them you’ll keep the call to less than 10 minutes and set up the call in advance.

I think it’s best for the therapists to hear 2-3 minutes from you about your particular situation and what you think has lead to your eating disorder.  If you’re not comfortable opening up at the beginning of the call, you might offer to email them your story in advance. This will allow the counselor to hear your situation so they can address their answers to identify where they may have particular experience with your situation/condition before.

Here are 10 questions I recommend asking eating disorder therapy counselors:

1. What is your experience working with eating disorder (anorexia or bulimia specifically) patients? Please describe.
2. How does your bulimia therapy (or anorexia) work? What methods have you used to treat someone with my condition?
3. What is your position on medications like anti-depressants during therapy?
4. Why did you become an eating disorder therapist?
5. Do you ever recommend alternative therapies that I can participate in while under your treatment? (i.e. yoga, hypnosis, acupuncture, etc.) Please describe.
6. How often will we meet? How long will our sessions be? How long do you anticipate treatment will continue (how many weeks/months or number of sessions)?
7. What are your fees?
8. Do you accept insurance?
9. Do you provide your cell phone number to your patients?
10. What do you expect of your patients?

I know… that’s a lot to cover in 10 minutes!

The therapist will probably block out at least 15 minutes for the call, so talk quickly and listen attentively.  Be brief, but try to get a sense for whether you like what you hear and feel they’re competent and capable of helping you.  Tell each one that you’ll be in touch if you’d like to schedule a first session after you have completed all of your interviews.

The Next Step: Your First Session

Once you’ve completed all of your phone interviews, time to set up your first session.  If you can narrow it down to one counselor, great.  If not, meet with the ones you felt answered your questions best or had the most experience with helping people like you.

Here are a few ideas of what to look for during your first eating disorder therapy session:

– Your comfort level in their presence.  This is probably the most important factor because if you don’t feel comfortable and free to express yourself with them, you’re not going to open up and allow them to help you.
– Will you be able to move ahead at your own pace?  You don’t want to feel rushed in therapy, yet at the same time is it good to have a little push when you need it.
– Does the therapist project insight and strength? If you don’t have confidence in your counselor and believe they can help you overcome bulimia or anorexia, they’re not going to be as effective as someone who does.
– Could you see this person calling you on your crap?  Yes, I’m serious.  Are they going to let you get away with not doing the inner work or are they capable of tough love and telling it to you straight?

Trust Your Instinct – Don’t Give Up

Remember, you can always change your therapist if you feel that you are not getting the help you need to stop being bulimic.  Sometimes it takes some trial and error to find the right fit.  This is a relationship you will be developing over time, so be sure that the professional you’ve chosen has both the experience and treatment program that will help with your recovery.

If the first eating disorder therapy counselor you choose doesn’t work out, don’t give up.  Trust the messages you get from your intuition.  Your results will also tell you if you’re making progress against your expectations.  If you’re doing the work you’re supposed to and not seeing the results you want, try a different provider or consider other treatments.

Share your experiences with us

If you’ve had the experience of choosing a therapist and would like to share about it, please contact us to let us know what worked [or didn’t work] for you.  We’ll happily share insights and ideas you have with other visitors on this site so we can all learn from each other.