There is a lot of evidence that suggest the imperative use of therapy in eating disorder recovery. Eating disorders are a mental health diagnosis, which suffer severe physical and biological consequences, therefore, therapy is ESSENTIAL to achieve full recovery. Most people understand the role of a dietitian in eating disorder recovery, because it has to do with food, but sometimes the role of therapy can be a little obscure.
This blog post will dive into what is psychotherapist? What is a psychotherapist’s role in ED recovery? And reveal the common types of therapy used to treat individuals with eating disorders, and explain what and how they work with your treatment! By the end of this blog post, you will have a better idea of what to expect coming into your first therapy session with a trained, licensed therapist.
A therapist is not a protected title, meaning it is not regulated by an organization that protects certain acts and titles. Similarly, to a healthcare worker (not protected title), and a medical doctor (protected title). So essentially, anyone could call themselves a therapist.
Psychotherapists is a protected title as they must be registered with a regulatory body that oversees these mental health professionals. In Ontario, this regulatory body is called the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario. Psychotherapists cannot prescribe medication or provide any formal mental health diagnoses.
Psychotherapists are an important part of the treatment team. Usually, therapists come into play once the client’s medical instability has been addressed and the client is working towards achieving medical stability.
First and foremost, the role of the psychotherapist is to help the client work towards mental stabilization. So, addressing (if any), higher risk thoughts that are happening, as well as develop tools for navigating their recovery (such as the refeeding process) and coping with the distress of that experience.
Longer term, the role of a psychotherapist is to help address the original cause of the eating disorder. Over time, when the eating disorder becomes unchecked, or develops in a way that’s now maladaptive, it can become very harmful. That’s where we need to learn different strategies to cope. So even though the onset of an eating disorder is typically the brains way of trying to do something that is really helpful and protective, it often doesn’t stay that way for very long. A psychotherapist can help you start building insight into what may have been the factors that lead to this type of thinking and then work to help change the trajectory and develop new, more adaptive ways of coping.
It’s important to note that there are various ways that therapy can look like, depending on the setting and access to care.
If there is any acute medical attention required, typically, inpatient care/hospitalization is best. At this stage, there is not a whole lot of therapy provided until the client is medically stable.
Then there are residential treatments, where clients are medically stable but still require 24hr care and hospitalization programs where people go to the hospital during day hours, have meal support for all meals and do therapeutic group sessions to continue with their eating disorder recovery. They get to go home at night and on weekends.
Then we have outpatient treatment, which is what we offer here at The Balanced Practice. This is for folks who are stable enough to be recovering outside of the hospital, but still need to learn to recover and maintain their recovery in “the real world”.
Check out my FREE Class to learn more about my Guilt Free Method so that you can find food freedom and feel good in your body.
There is more and more research that suggests an individual should be looking someone who they will have a strong therapeutic alliance with, and not necessarily the types of treatment they offer. Basically, this means that the relationship between the therapist and the client is the number one predictor of whether your treatment is going to be successful or not.
If you are seeking care for an eating disorder, disordered eating or any other food or body challenges, you should prioritize someone who is informed and trained in this area. This means, you will need to ask questions, because a lot of times on certain websites, such as Psychology Today, some therapist will click that they treat eating disorders, but in reality they only saw one or two clients with eating disorders. So it’s really important to reach out, ask more questions about what therapy for eating disorder recovery might look like and what framework they work from.
Other things to look for in a therapist (and all members of your treatment team, as best as possible):
They are anti-diet
They are Health At Every Size
They are trauma informed
I know, this was a lot of information! But I hope you found it helpful to clarify some of the common approaches used to support individuals with eating disorders and disordered eating of all types. If you are hesitant or unsure if therapy is right for you, there is no harm in simply reaching out and connecting with a therapist for a free connection call. This allows you to ask questions in a safe space and see if this therapist will be right for you.
Hear me explore this topic more in depth in this week’s podcast episode with one of our team’s psychotherapists, Kellie! Access it by clicking on any of the icons below!
The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!
We strive to provide evidence based counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of The Balanced Practice