Therapy for Eating Disorders: How To Find a Great Therapist for Your Eating Concerns

When you (or someone you love) is experiencing an eating disorder, figuring out treatment can feel intimidating and overwhelming. Therapy for eating disorders helps shed light on the unique causes, patterns, and triggers, as well as provide tools to overcome it long term.

Below, you can learn more about the different types of eating disorders, treatment options, and where to find an eating disorder therapist for your unique situation.


What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a severe disturbance in eating patterns that involves restricting, avoiding, and/or binge eating. Individuals with eating disorders may focus excessively on their weight, body shape, and/or food intake, and distress caused by this behavior can impair daily functioning as well as mental and physical wellbeing.

Eating disorders have the highest risk of death among any psychiatric illness, and they often co-occur with other disorders such as depression or anxiety.

Diagnosable eating disorders include the following conditions:

Some mental health practitioners may also use a diagnosis called “Other Specified Eating or Feeding Disorder,” in cases where an eating disorder is causing severe distress but doesn’t meet the criteria for the three disorders listed above.

Ready to schedule a free consultation with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders?

What are treatment options for eating disorders?

Treatment for eating disorders includes individual talk therapy, group therapy, family therapy, nutritional counseling and education, and in some cases, medication for mood and anxiety management. Many also find it helpful to work with a dietitian, who can provide guidance for nutrition, but not typically mental health.

Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, treatment may include a team approach, involving a therapist, nutritionist, physician, and psychiatrist. A holistic approach that addresses all aspects and complexities of the eating disorder is recommended, including physical, mental, social, and interpersonal functioning.

What is the best therapy type for eating disorders?

There are different approaches to eating disorder treatment, including:

Research supports that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an effective approach to eating disorder treatment, especially bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

Through these approaches, therapists help clients adopt healthier behaviors and address the underlying causes of the eating disorder. They help clients communicate their feelings, increase their sense of self-worth, and identify negative thought patterns, while reducing self-harming behaviors and sense of shame.

Therapy sessions for eating disorders are usually 45 minutes to one hour long.

What is CBT for eating disorders?

CBT is used to help the client identify negative thinking patterns and unhelpful behaviors that have contributed to the disorder. Behavioral therapy is used to help make the behavioral changes necessary to helping the patient overcome patterns of disordered eating.

Find CBT therapists near you

How much does therapy for eating disorder recovery cost?

Many eating disorder therapists are not in-network with health insurances, and charge $150 to $200 per session.

This is because eating disorder therapists typically receive extensive additional training and education, and health insurance companies reimburse low amounts.

That said, you can request out-of-network reimbursements for your sessions, and it can be possible to find in-network therapists for eating disorders as well.

How can I find the right eating disorder therapist for me?

Find a therapist with eating disorder expertise and training

Therapists for eating disorders can come from a variety of mental health fields, like social work, psychology, and psychiatry.

Regardless of credentials, any practitioner who treats eating disorders should have extensive training and education specifically on the subject of eating disorders.

Ask about your therapist’s educational background and licensure, as well as their advanced training in working with people struggling with eating disorders.

The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals issues certifications for therapists with advanced training, so you can also look for therapists who have these certifications.

Schedule a free phone consultation with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders to learn more:

Look for someone who fully understands your situation

You may want to look for a therapist who specializes in your particular eating struggle.

Even within the field eating disorder therapy, therapists may specialize in working specifically with clients struggling with a specific disorder.

Determine how your therapist will work with your recovery team

Treatment for eating disorders often involves a team of medical, mental health, and nutrition professionals in order to provide comprehensive, holistic treatment.

Find out how your potential therapist plans to collaborate with the other members of your treatment team, if you have one, or how they might be able to connect you with other practitioners if necessary.

Make sure you’re comfortable with your therapist

Most importantly, find a therapist with whom you feel safe and comfortable. You should be able to forge a unique bond known as the therapeutic alliance.

Know that you might not click with every therapist – and that’s okay! If you can, take the time to find a therapist with whom you feel you can build a strong, productive relationship.


Questions to ask an eating disorder therapist

To get to know potential therapists and figure out who might be right for you, you can ask some or all of the following questions in your initial phone calls:

Find an eating disorder therapist near you

Find vetted eating disorder therapists on Zencare, below. We’ve asked therapists the questions above (and more) to ensure they have the training and education behind their eating disorder specialties.

Search for a therapist by fees and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right eating disorder therapist for you!

To continue your eating disorder education, read our explanations of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.