Eating Disorder Treatment: Who's on Your Team?

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If you have an eating disorder, it will take a team of healthcare professionals to help you get better. That's because an eating disorder can affect your physical health, mental health, and relationships. Your treatment may include talk therapy, counseling, medical care, nutrition support, and medications.

Most likely, your treatment will start with your primary care doctor. Other members of your treatment team may include a psychiatrist, psychologist, dietitian, and a social worker.

Primary care doctor:

Treatment often starts here. You may see your primary care doctor because you have signs or symptoms of an eating disorder. Or, your primary care doctor might find these signs or symptoms during a routine checkup.

The role your primary care doctor may have in your treatment includes:

  • Managing the physical signs and symptoms of your eating disorder
  • Planning your care including sending you to see other team members
  • Teaching you and your family about your condition
  • Monitoring your condition throughout your treatment and recovery

Psychologist:

This is a mental health professional who uses talk therapy to help you change the way you think and act. Another name for this is psychotherapy. It can be individual, family or group therapy.

Your psychologist's role in your treatment may include:

  • Working with you to find the thoughts and behaviors that led to your eating disorder
  • Teaching you new and healthier ways to think and act
  • Working with you on relationship issues
  • Helping you recognize and avoid eating disorder triggers

Psychiatrist:

This is a medical doctor who treats mental health disorders.

Your psychiatrist's role in your treatment may include:

  • Helping to plan your treatment
  • Diagnosing other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse
  • Giving you psychotherapy or referring you to another provider for psychotherapy work
  • Prescribing medications
  • Antidepressant medications called SSRIs are often used along with psychotherapy for binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa.

Dietitian:

A dietitian is a nutrition expert with special training in eating disorders.

This team member's roles may include:

  • Finding nutrition problems caused by your eating disorder
  • Developing a diet plan to help you get the right amount of calories and nutrients
  • Monitoring your diet and your weight
  • Helping you learn healthy eating habits

Social worker:

A social worker can be an important part of your team. Social workers with special training often assist in counseling and therapy sessions. Your social worker can help you deal with the stresses of living with an eating disorder at home or at work.

A social worker's role in your treatment may include:

  • Helping you find services and support
  • Helping you work through your treatment plan and your discharge plan
  • Making sure you are safe at home
  • Helping you find the financial support you need during treatment and recovery

Treating an eating disorder is a team effort. Another key member of the team is you. Learn as much as you can about your disorder and work closely with all your team members.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. National Eating Disorders Association. Treating an Eating Disorder. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/treating-eating-disorder

  2. American Family Physician. Treating Eating Disorders in Primary Care. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/0115/p187.html

  3. American Psychological Association. Eating Disorders. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/eating.aspx

  4. American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition Intervention in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. http://www.eatrightpro.org/~/media/eatrightpro%20files/practice/position%20and%20practice%20papers/p...

  5. National Association of Social Workers. Social Workers in Mental Health Clinics & Outpatient facilities. http://workforce.socialworkers.org/studies/profiles/Mental%20Health%20Clinics.pdf