Regardless of the type of therapy you participate in, your relationship with your therapist is one which will likely last a while. And since your therapist will likely play such a key role in your eating disorder recovery, it’s important to make sure you find someone you both can and want to work with.
Luckily, there are some tools and exercises you can utilize to help make that process easier.
How to Find an Eating Disorder Therapist Near You
There are a variety of ways to find a certified eating disorder specialist or programs tailored to eating disorder help in your area.
Within Health offers fully remote treatment for eating disorders, including access to a team of therapists, dietitians, nurses, food specialists, and more.
A number of websites and online directories maintain lists of treatment centers, offering their address, phone number, and an overview of services offered. Some of these lists include options that allow you to search for therapists or programs by geographic location, accepted health insurance policies, or other helpful details.
If utilizing these networks, try to ensure the lists are regularly updated, and the directories are run by a professional, trustworthy source. Some companies may partner with certain healthcare institutions, which doesn’t necessarily make them less trustworthy, but could mean that they favor certain programs or information over others.
Eating Disorder Hotlines
If you’d rather speak with someone directly about which direction to go in, there are a number of hotlines designed to help people with eating disorders or mental health disorders.
Whether you’re looking for help with anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder (BED), or another type of condition, the NEDA Helpline will connect you to a trained volunteer who can provide you with useful information and other resources. It can be reached at 1-800-931-2237 as well as through their online chat system. 
A similar but less-focused resource is SAMHSA’s National Helpline. This helpline is run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and focuses more broadly on mental health, though they can still offer useful information about eating disorder programs. 
Available at 1-800-662-4357, this number is free to call and available 24/7, allowing you to get quick referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
If you already have a physician, psychiatrist, or mental health therapist you like and trust, these people are also all great sources of information on eating disorder treatment. Even if your therapist isn’t trained to help treat eating disorders, they should be able to point you in a helpful direction.
What to Look for in an Eating Disorder Therapist
Sometimes, the problem with finding proper treatment isn’t a lack of options, but too many. In cases where pages of results show up, you may feel overwhelmed or unsure where to even start.
In these cases, there are some factors that can help you narrow down your choices, and make the best decision possible.
Many therapists receive the appropriate kind of training to help with eating disorders. At a certain point, the difference between two or more similarly-qualified therapists may come down to experience.
Therapists with more experience in the field or more specified training may bring other benefits to the table, including not just greater knowledge but wisdom and discernment.
But keep in mind that while this consideration can help you narrow down your choices, longer experience doesn’t always translate to a better fit. Ultimately, how well you are able to personally work with your therapist is the most important factor.
You should only ever see a therapist with the proper credentials, who is medically licensed and able to legally operate in your area. Some may have additional credentials, which allow them to practice other therapeutic methods or types of care.
A therapist’s credentials may not be apparent when looking at their site, but you can ask them for more information. If they’re honest and reputable, they should be open to talking to you about this information and answer any questions you may have regarding their qualifications.
Eating disorder counseling has become a specialized field.
Many therapists don’t just focus on the subject of eating disorders, but may have expertise in one particular type of disorder, or specific types of treatment targeted at eating disorder care. This can be a particularly helpful way to narrow search results if there is a certain type of therapy you want to try.
Some eating disorder therapists may specialize in areas that, while not eating disorder-specific, can be very beneficial for someone’s care. Often, this means taking elements into account that help constitute someone’s sense of identity.
If you are deeply religious, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, a veteran, or strongly aligned with another community, you may prefer working with someone who shares, understands, or incorporates your experiences into their practice.
For example, a therapist who regularly works with patients in the LGBTQIA+ community, or who are a part of this group themselves, may be more familiar with the preferred language and nuances of that community. This can often lead to a better, less stressful experience at therapy.
Similarly, veterans may have life experiences that are very different from people with no military background. Many veterans struggle with trauma that can be difficult to explain to lifelong civilians. But a therapist who understands these experiences or a military lifestyle can often make talking about these things easier, which is more likely to lead to a more positive experience in therapy.
While it may be unpleasant to think about the details of a health insurance policy, the reality is most people rely on these programs to help them pay for what is otherwise often expensive and lengthy treatment.
Ideally, you will generally want to work with a therapist that’s within your insurance network. This typically makes it easier to get coverage for your treatment, and often represents the most cost-effective option.
If cost of treatment is a concern of yours, you may even want to begin your search by filtering out any programs that are not within your insurance network. This way, you can assure any therapist or program you find that you like will be at least partially covered.
Virtual vs. In-Person Therapy
If you live in an area that’s far from viable programs, have a difficult schedule to work around, or experience challenges with mobility or securing consistent transportation, you may want to consider virtual therapy.
One of the most obvious benefits of this type of care is its convenience. Virtual care can be accessed from anywhere, so long as you have an internet connection, and these sessions are generally more flexible and easy to schedule. In fact, all of these reasons make online care a popular option for all kinds of patients, not just those who otherwise experience difficulties finding therapy.
Still, virtual treatment is not without its limitations. People with more severe eating disorder symptoms may initially benefit more from an inpatient program or other types of in-person treatment, where they can receive more immediate medical care and be more closely supported.
One well-received virtual therapy program that may work as a middle ground is the eating disorder treatment offered through Within Health.  While this multi-step program takes place online, it is catered to your individual needs, includes options for meal deliveries, and can send you medical equipment to help you track your progress.
Finding Eating Disorder Help
Regardless of how you structure or prioritize your search for an eating disorder therapist or program, the most important thing is taking the time to start.
Eating disorders can be dangerous conditions if left untreated, but recovery from these conditions is possible.
With the right kind of help, you can make your way toward the road to recovery, and a happier and healthier future.