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Why Therapy Is Such an Important Part of Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorder treatment facilities provide the most effective, research supported solutions known for treating eating disorders. As with all areas of mental health, there are numerous treatment plans available based on the needs of the individual patient. While the treatment approach can vary in effectiveness, there are some fundamentals of eating disorder treatment that are unwavering.

Therapy, including individual and group, is typically a preferred treatment option for eating disorders. Regardless of the specific disorder one is faced with, therapy is considered a primary treatment option by the vast majority of eating disorder professionals.

For those who are considering treatment options for eating disorders, it can be useful to understand the fundamentals of eating disorder treatment. This is especially true of eating disorder counseling, typically conducted by a treatment team including a therapist, nutritionist, medical doctor and eating disorder psychiatrist.

Once an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder and their loved ones are familiar with the importance of therapy, and the complementary treatments combined with therapy, it can become easier to appreciate why seeking help from a trusted eating disorder counseling center is so important.

Eating Disorders Encompass a Range of Behaviors

When an individual is diagnosed with an eating disorder, it indicates the person has a relationship with food that is disruptive or damaging to his or her well being. There are many ways one’s relationship with food can become distorted, ranging from eating very little food, eating too much food or using food as a means to cope with negative thoughts and emotions.

Eating Disorders Often Have Multiple Contributing Factors

Eating disorders are not only expressed in a variety of ways, but also result from a variety of causes. There are often multiple contributing factors to the development of an eating disorder. In books, movies and television, the cause of an eating disorder is often simple and easy to identify. In real life, the disorder is rarely so simple or straightforward. An individual diagnosed with an eating disorder may have numerous components that influence and maintain the eating disorder. Some of these may include:

Influence of Media

One of the major roles media plays in the lives of consumers is defining the standard of beauty. It is most common amongst females, but males are faced with a considerable amount of influencing information as well. The goal of media is rarely to present a balanced, realistic body image. Most images presented to the public as ideals of human beauty show extremes and/or alterations of the human physical condition. These set a standard that the vast majority of individuals can never hope to achieve. If one becomes too eager to achieve these unreasonable standards, it can contribute to an eating disorder.

Peer Pressure

The influence of peer pressure can be extremely powerful, particularly for those in their teen years. There are many teens, especially impacting females, that deal with a considerable amount of peer-pressure regarding the way they look. In certain situations, peer pressure can cause individuals to seek approval by any means necessary, including severely altering their standard eating and exercise habits.


Trauma affects everyone differently and there are many ways a person can be traumatized. The death of a loved one, a community tragedy, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, divorce, losing a job, moving to a new city are all examples of potential trauma. The results of trauma may not be obvious, especially long-term impacts. Trauma is often a contributing factor in mental illness and eating disorders are no exception.

The Importance of a Skilled Therapist

When one realizes how varied the types and symptoms of eating disorders can be and the numerous contributing factors to these disorders it becomes apparent just how complex eating disorders actually are. They may seem easy to understand on a surface level, but developing a fully comprehensive understanding is more difficult. Without the help of professionals, determining the best path to recovery can often be even more difficult.

Eating disorder counseling requires a professional who has received extensive education and training. It is not enough for a professional to identify the signs of an eating disorder; he or she must have the compassion and communication skills to talk with a diverse range of people, providing them the support and guidance to achieve true recovery. He or she has to be willing to talk, guide, understand and interpret without judgement.

Eating disorder therapists have a unique set of skills and training. Fortunately, there are numerous qualified therapists working in eating disorder treatment centers who can provide effective therapy for patients.

Eating Disorder Treatment: Why Is Therapy the Foundation?

There are many reasons therapy serves as the foundation of any good treatment program; including:

Therapists listen to the individual.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to mental health. Every person is different. Every person diagnosed with an eating disorder is a unique individual, with a unique background and approach to life. There may be one approach that works wonderfully with one individual and not another. It is important for therapists to actively listen to every patient and identify where he or she is coming from; only then can an effective treatment protocol be designed and implemented.

Therapy adjusts to reach the desired goal.

Therapy is an organic, flexible approach to achieving desired outcomes. No matter how skilled the therapist or how sure he or she is about the situation and the needed treatment (or how certain the patient is about the needed treatment) in the end, it is impossible to fully predict the path to recovery. Therapy is about discovery. Each session, the therapist and the patient work together to define the problem, identify the solution and develop a plan to achieve said solution. After therapy, the patient works to apply the plan; as with anything in life, there are times things do not go according to plan.

With each successive therapy session, the therapist and patient examine the previous effort and determine what worked and what did not work. They then decide on a new plan to continue toward the desired goal. It is an ongoing process of planning, action and correction. Like most things in life, the true solution is only realized by an ongoing effort to find it and a willingness to keep trying in the face of adversity or roadblocks.

A good therapist is in it for the long haul.

Going through the trial and error of therapy requires commitment from both the patient and the therapist. It also requires the energy of two individuals, not just one. Part of the reason individuals diagnosed with eating disorders are so rarely able to fully recover on their own is that repeated effort takes too much energy for one person. Part of the job of a therapist is to provide the needed support the patient needs to keep going. It is completely possible to become fully recovered. Countless people have done it. But they rarely do it alone. The therapist and the patient are a team, working together to reach a goal they both know is so important.

Group therapy combines the skills of a therapist with the companionship of the group.

It is well known that groups of people are often able to accomplish more than an individual person is capable of. There are many reasons for this. Groups have more resources than an individual. When one person is tired, another can provide the energy to keep going. Additionally, individuals will often work harder when they know others are depending on them.

Group therapy draws on many of these dynamics to help those diagnosed with eating disorders achieve full recovery. The group comes together, under the guidance of a skilled therapist, to share their experiences and work together to seek a solution to what can be an overwhelming problem when faced alone. It can be comforting to discover one is not alone. Being diagnosed with an eating disorder is not as unusual as it may feel. With group therapy, an individual is able to meet people diagnosed with similar disorders and to discuss the reasons the disorder developed and the support that can be provided to support recovery.

Therapy offers an opportunity to talk honestly.

Many people diagnosed with an eating disorder have never spoken with a therapist before. They are often surprised at how beneficial it can be to speak to their therapist and may even be at a loss as to why it is so much easier to speak to the therapist than to their loved ones. There are several reasons it is often easier to talk with a therapist. One of the most significant reasons is because the therapist has no other interest or connection with the client other than helping.

Relationships, even with the most loving of friends and family, often include obligations and expectations. Therapists, in contrast, are trained to have no expectation of how the patient should behave or what the patient should or should not say. This lack of expectations allows the patient to say whatever comes into his or her thoughts which can be very powerful and lead to significant realizations. The patient does not have to worry about disappointing the therapist or hurting his or her feelings. Instead, the patient can speak freely and the therapist will guide the conversation to a productive place.

Therapy Is Part of Residential and Day Treatment

Eating disorder counseling is a fundamental treatment included in both residential and day treatment. All eating disorder treatment facilities, including male eating disorder treatment centers and female eating disorder treatment centers, include therapy in the treatment process.

In the case of residential treatment, therapy is conducted through individual and group therapy sessions. In outpatient or day treatment, both individual and group therapy are scheduled for the patient on a regular basis. The individual will come to the treatment center for each therapy session and utilize the lessons and skills learned in their everyday lives.

Eating Disorder Treatment Near You

If you or someone you care for has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, we encourage you to contact us. Our team can help you find eating disorder treatment near you and advise you on which treatment options are best suited for your individual needs. We look forward to helping you start on the road to full recovery.