Getting the Most out of Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorder therapy can be an extremely rewarding process. Therapy can lead to life-altering changes and results. Therapy is an integral part of eating disorder recovery since eating disorders are often an attempt to cope with unresolved mental health issues, trauma, or repressed emotions [1]. Sorting through these issues can help protect someone’s recovery and be a powerful relapse prevention strategy.

Here are three tips to get the most out of therapy during eating disorder treatment:


Therapy is a partnership between a client and a therapist. While therapists do have advanced education about mental health, eating disorder therapy is a collaborative process. This means that a therapist is not an expert on someone’s life and does not have the power to create change without the client’s efforts.

This means that in order to get the most out of therapy, a client needs to do their part. This might look like being honest about your needs, doing homework assignments, or practicing coping skills outside of sessions.

Be Honest

Woman speaking to her therapist in eating disorder therapyTherapists are not mind readers! Be as honest as possible during eating disorder therapy. If your therapist doesn’t really know what is going on, it is nearly impossible to accomplish your goals. Fear of judgment can get in the way of being completely honest. Vulnerability is hard, but it is important to appropriately personalize the therapeutic process. Therapy is for you, and the process should be individualized based on your needs and wants.

It’s okay to let a therapist know if something isn’t working for you, whether it’s an appointment time or their approach. It can be uncomfortable to give a therapist feedback, but it isn’t impolite or inappropriate. On the other hand, being honest about what is working for you lets your therapist know to do more of that. This honesty helps pave the way for success.

While eating disorder therapy is collaborative, it is important to at least consider a therapist’s input, guidance, and the wisdom offered. This is especially important during eating disorder recovery as a therapist may be a source of reason and accountability while also being a big emotional support. Being receptive to their input can help shed light on disordered behaviors and thought processes or the progress being made that may be hard to recognize in the moment.

Be Open in Eating Disorder Therapy

It is important to be open to the process of therapy. Eating disorder recovery looks different for everyone, but it isn’t a quick fix. Some days may feel like little progress is being made while other days will feel monumental. Be open and patient with yourself or a loved one going through recovery. It is hard work, and the benefits tend to unfold over time.

Being open to change. It is impossible to recover if someone isn’t open to change. This may seem obvious, but resistance to recovery is a normal part of the process. It may be hard to give up certain eating disorder behaviors because they have become an effective, though harmful, coping skill.

The behaviors serve a purpose, or else someone wouldn’t engage in them. It can be hard to let this go. Having reminders of the positive aspects of recovery can help sustain motivation when it feels tempting to revert back to disordered behaviors.

Perspective, honesty, and openness are helpful in getting the most out of therapy in eating disorder treatment. Therapy is an integral part of the recovery process, so it’s worth fully investing in. The more you invest, the more progress you are likely to make.

[1] Costin, C. & Shubert Grabb, G. (2012). 8 keys to recovery from an eating disorder. W.W. Norton & Company.

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published September 22, 2020, on
Reviewed & Approved on September 22, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.