Where to Begin Finding a Therapist Specialized in Eating Disorders

When battling an eating disorder, individuals should seek out the best care possible.

When looking for a therapist to help with your recovery journey, it is important to remember that not all clinicians are created equal. One study found that, despite being provided with national “best practices” guidelines for treating eating disorders, only 4% of clinicians used any guidelines or protocols and none of them used the national guidelines provided. Eating disorders are unique and, therefore, require unique treatment interventions. As such, it is crucial to find a therapist that specializes in eating disorder treatment and recovery. Doing so isn’t easy. A lot of clinicians claim to be specialized or, like the clinicians mentioned above, have access to treatment protocols but don’t use them. Below are some tips on how to find a therapist that truly specializes in eating disorders and uses interventions that will further your recovery in the best way possible.

Ask About Their Training and Experience

This may seem obvious but ensuring that your therapist specializes in eating disorders is often as easy as asking about their experience and training in the field. An experienced mechanic will have worked on numerous cars, a qualified doctor will have seen many patients, and an experienced eating disorder therapist will have worked with many clients dealing with eating disorders. As you are fielding potential therapists, ask them how many clients with eating disorders they have worked with and how many years they have been in this field. Further, a clinician that specializes in eating disorder treatment is almost certainly part of a professional organization that focuses on that population.

Ask if your therapist is a member of prominent organizations such as The Academy of Eating Disorders or the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.

Make Sure They Understand the Need for Dynamic Treatment

A therapist that specializes in eating disorders will undoubtedly understand the importance of receiving effective treatment from an interdisciplinary team. That is one that, at least, includes a doctor, therapist, and nutritionist. This approach is inarguably best, as it focuses on bettering both the physical and psychological functioning of the individual. Research indicates that using an interdisciplinary team “has more therapeutic utility than counseling alone [Mitchell].” Further, individuals that have these teams are more likely to remain in treatment longer as well as use both individual and group counseling. Any therapist that claims to specialize in eating disorders will emphasize and support this treatment team approach. If they do not, it would be best to find a clinician that does.

Determine Their Stance and Experience with Co-Occurring Disorders?

A lot of people with an eating disorder will be diagnosed with what is called a “co-occurring disorder.” This is when one disorder such as an eating disorder co-occurs with another disorder such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or substance abuse. Determine whether or not your potential therapist is experienced in treating co-occurring disorders.

Not only will this indicate their experience with eating disorders, but it will also be helpful should it be determined that you are experiencing symptoms of another disorder.

Finding the right therapist for you is difficult, especially when you have a unique disorder that requires specialized treatment. In recovery, you need to surround yourself with the best people, and that includes your therapist. Do your research and ask the right questions to ensure that you are receiving the well-rounded and specialized treatment that you need and deserve.