Whether treatment occurs at the outpatient level or at a higher level of care (inpatient hospitalization, residential treatment or intensive outpatient), almost all treatment providers use a team approach to help their clients recover from eating disorders. Each provider is specially trained to treat specific aspects of eating disorders, and by working together, they are able to provide a multifaceted treatment approach. This provides clients with a treatment plan that addresses emotional, physical, and interpersonal issues.
It is important to find treatment providers who are experienced in treating eating disorders, and who are willing to maintain communication with others on your treatment team so that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. You will need to sign a release form in order for these professionals to communicate with each other.
Therapists, or counselors, are a cornerstone in the treatment and recovery process. These professionals are trained and experienced in psychotherapy or talk therapy. They provide clients with a non-judgmental place to discuss thoughts and emotions surrounding food, weight, body-image, interpersonal (relationship) issues, and other topics that are relevant. Therapists help clients learn how to challenge eating disorder thoughts and begin accepting themselves as they are.
Some people will have multiple therapists involved in his/her treatment. These include an individual therapist, a family therapist, and/or a group therapist. If you enter into inpatient or residential treatment you may be exposed to other therapists as well.
Dietitians provide clients with nutrition counseling. Nutrition counseling includes teaching clients about what types of food your body needs, and how much food your body needs. They may also provide you with a meal plan to follow, or work with you to come up with meal ideas that are appropriate for you. Many people with eating disorders often believe that they already know everything that they need to know about nutrition. However, dietitians are able to help clients sort through what is the truth about food versus myths about food. They also provide an important component of accountability to the recovery process.
Learning about the science behind food and metabolism can help sufferers challenge disordered thinking about food. As clients journey through the recovery process, dietitians will help their clients begin to incorporate challenging foods into their diets and learn to listen to physical signals of hunger and satiety.
Sometimes dietitians may also consult with the parents or caregivers of young clients, or those clients who are using Maudsley (family-based) treatment approaches.
Many sufferers who are treated on an outpatient basis, and all clients treated on an inpatient basis, will have a psychiatrist on their treatment team as well. Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in the treatment of mental illnesses. They can prescribe and manage medications to lessen specific symptoms that sufferers are experiencing.
Your psychiatrist may also manage any medical complications that exist. Some psychiatrists are also trained in psychotherapy, and may provide therapy as well as medication management.
Typically your family doctor, or another doctor whom you regularly see, will also be involved in your treatment team to help check for and manage any medical complications that sufferers may experience as a result of the eating disorder. This doctor may check specific lab values, weigh you regularly, and/or order other tests to determine if complications exist. As sufferers go through the treatment and recovery process, these values will be rechecked and monitored. If a serious complication does exist, sufferers may be referred to another specialist. Physicians also help to determine if it's safe for a sufferer to engage in exercise, including how much and for how long.