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4 Commonly Used Eating Disorder Therapy Options

The best treatments for different kinds of eating disorders can be hard to nail down.  Patients can be very sick and at a very unhealthy weight by the time they seek eating disorder therapy.  As a result, the most important problem can be making a patient physically healthy before the underlying problems can be dealt with.  Once a patient is stabilized, the mental treatment and training can really begin.  Often, the eating disorder is not the only problem.  The cause of the eating disorder tends to be the crux of the healing that needs to happen. There are several kinds of therapies that are commonly used as treatment for anorexia and other types of eating disorders to cut through to the underlying problem and start the healing process.

Interpersonal Therapy for Eating Disorders

Examining the relationships between a client and other people in his or her life is the basis of interpersonal therapy.  Counselors talk with clients about major life changes, disputes or difficulties with a significant other, the challenges of being part of a family or group of friends, and the deaths of any loved ones that were especially close to the client.  Resolving these relationship issues can also help clients deal with depression, anxiety, or any other mood disorders that have occurred in conjunction with the eating disorder.

Family Therapy for Eating Disorders

Family therapy is just like is sounds.  Family members of the client come to and are involved in therapy sessions.  Often, family therapy works best for younger patients whose parents are looking for a way to help their child regain control and fight an eating disorder.  In family therapy, parents are given back some of the control over the life of their child.  Sometimes they, along with the therapist, must find ways to force a child to eat even if that means sitting at a table for hours while the child fights about eating.  Clients and families can also use the safe space of family therapy to talk about any trauma that might exist, triggers the client might have, and ways to integrate the client back into normal life after treatment is completed.

Cognitive Behavioral Eating Disorder Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most traditional approach to eating disorder treatment.  Clients see a therapist individually to talk about thoughts, behaviors, and feelings leading to and surrounding the eating disorder.  In these therapy sessions, therapists try to give clients an awareness of distorted thoughts about food and control so that patients can learn to recognize and change their behavior accordingly.  For eating disorder treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a relatively short term option.  Should a client continue with eating disorder related behavior even after therapy is completed, more drastic measures are generally needed including hospitalization and food replacement.

Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders

Group therapy is a staple of most rehabilitation programs for eating disorders, substance abuse, and alcoholism.  In group therapy, individual clients are joined by a therapist and other clients from similar programs.  In this environment, clients can learn how others respond to them which is helpful when learning to navigate the world again.  Clients can also learn to respond to others and focus on how he or she is going to feel when out in the world again.  Think of it as a test drive for normalcy.  Group therapy also allows clients to put a voice to their thoughts and feelings about their treatment and their eating disorder experiences.  Being part of a group where clients have all experienced similar situations makes everyone feel less alone.  It helps the whole group to know that they are part of a larger wellness community and are not fighting this battle against eating disorders by themselves.

These four common types of eating disorder therapy, as well as other forms of treatment including meditation, yoga, and nutrition counseling, are all very effective in treating anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders.  The most important thing is for clients to remain engaged and know that recovery is a process.  All therapies may not be effective immediately as these things take time. Speak with a mental healthcare professional to determine what type of eating disorder treatment is best for you and your family.