Choosing an Eating Disorder Therapist, Program, or Rehab 

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) are complex mental health conditions that often require comprehensive care that takes someone’s emotional, physical, and mental health into account.

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Choosing an eating disorder therapist

Happily, there are a number of evidence-based treatments that have been proven to help. But even as the variety of care options can help ensure you find a helpful eating disorder program, it can make it difficult to ultimately choose which eating disorder therapist or program you want to work with.

Aside from the method of treatment used, there are a number of other factors to keep in mind when making this important decision. Still, taking a moment to think about these considerations can help ensure you choose the best eating disorder therapist or program for you.

Getting Help for an Eating Disorder: Where to Start

Getting treated for an eating disorder can be an intimidating process, even if you acknowledge you want to make a change and need help. Choosing a therapist or treatment program is a commitment, both in terms of time and money, so it’s important to choose wisely. 

The initial step for most people is finding a mental health professional who specializes in treating eating disorders. This can help you get an official diagnosis for your condition, which is often a crucial factor in both securing insurance coverage and building a treatment plan.

Since eating disorders are often treated with a combination of psychotherapy, medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, and medications, consulting with an expert will also help you sort out what your specific next best steps should be. [1]

But be mindful of the diagnosing physician you choose. Many insurance companies require this doctor to be in their network in order to approve any treatment recommendations they may make.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Eating Disorder Treatment Program

Once you’ve received an official diagnosis and spoken to a specialist about the types of treatment that might work best for you, you can begin looking for eating disorder programs.

Your diagnosing physician may be able to help you in this process, or you may want to do it yourself. Regardless, there are some considerations to keep in mind which may help you understand your own priorities around treatment and recovery goals, as well as the kind of eating disorder therapist you may want to work with.

A very important consideration when choosing an eating disorder program is whether you will need inpatient or outpatient care.

Inpatient care involves living at a facility throughout the duration of your treatment, which could be several weeks or several months, depending on the severity of your symptoms. This level of care allows you to receive treatment in a highly controlled, safe environment and to focus on your recovery without the distractions or potential triggers of home.

During outpatient care, you’ll live at home and commute to treatment sessions. These are generally recommended for less severe cases or for patients who are ready to incorporate more social responsibilities, like work or school, into their recovery journey.

Virtual care is another option that can be helpful in many cases, allowing you to attend therapy sessions and potentially interact with other treatment team members through online programs.

Whether you’re looking for an eating disorder therapist or treatment program, it’s important to keep in mind the type of treatment they offer.

Some programs have a comprehensive care team capable of catering to many different eating disorders or therapeutic techniques. Others may specialize in certain techniques or types of patients, such as those offering family therapy for younger patients.

If you have co-occurring mental health issues, such as substance use disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s also important to take this into account when choosing an eating disorder therapist or program. Most experts recommend treating co-occurring conditions simultaneously, so you should make sure a program or therapist can offer that.

You can also consider several types of therapy, including individual sessions or group therapy. While individual therapy is an effective way to treat eating disorders, many people also benefit from taking on these sensitive topics in a group therapy setting.

Eating disorder treatment and therapy for eating disorders are often lengthy and expensive. Most people need some help from insurance in order to cover these costs. [2]

When trying to find the best eating disorder program or therapist for you, it’s important to keep this consideration in mind. You may even want to start your search by contacting your health insurance company to ask about which types of programs they’re more likely to cover.

Most insurance companies have certain requirements around the types of treatment they’re willing to pay for. Many will only cover evidence-based treatment that is considered necessary for someone’s recovery, and they will decline to cover treatments that have arguably comparable but cheaper alternatives.

Making sure you have proper insurance coverage is especially important if entering a long-term inpatient treatment program, as this is generally the most expensive type of care and the most difficult to secure coverage for. Make sure you talk with both a representative from your insurance provider and a representative from the care provider to confirm the details of coverage before enrolling in one of these programs.

An old adage in the medical world says that the best kind of treatment is the one a patient will take. And this is one reason why location can make such a big difference.

A location that’s easier or more convenient for you to reach makes it more likely you’ll be able to keep your appointments, particularly if you have challenges around transportation, mobility, or your schedule.

Location can also play a role in insurance coverage, particularly for facilities that are in different states than one where your insurance or home address is based. These types of locations are more likely to be considered out-of-network, which would make them much more expensive.

In these situations, you may want to consider virtual treatment so long as your case is considered compatible with this form of care. Online therapy offers a convenient option that can often provide the same level of care an in-person provider could, in many cases. [3]

Advice for Evaluating an Eating Disorder Program

Once you’ve found a treatment program that meets your basic requirements, you will have to decide on the best option for you.

A good way to start narrowing down the possibilities is by reading reviews on the center. If possible, look for reviews on a site that is separate from the treatment provider’s site, as this helps to avoid the potential bias that can occur if you only read reviews a provider has chosen to share. 

The best thing you can do is make the decision to get help.

In some cases, you may be able to get recommendations about good programs from reputable sources, like a mental health professional you already trust. A number of eating disorder hotlines can offer you further help and information about possible treatment options.

Regardless of where you ultimately decide to seek help, however, the most important thing you can do is make that decision. Finding the best eating disorder therapist or program for you may not be easy, but it can help you create a healthier and happier future.


  1. Eating Disorders. (2023, January). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved January 2023.
  2. Gordon D. (2021, February). Despite Progress, Patients Still Struggle With Insurance Coverage For Eating Disorder Treatment. Forbes. Retrieved January 2023.
  3. Sarkis S. (2021, February 14). Online Therapy Just As Effective As In-Person Sessions. Forbes. Retrieved January 2023.

Last Update | 10 - 26 - 2023

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