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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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Therapy for eating disorders

Overcoming an eating disorder can be a long and challenging journey. But there are many types of therapy for eating disorders that can help make recovery possible.

The most common type of eating disorder therapy is typically a form of psychotherapy. Better known as "talk therapy," these sessions involve talking with a mental health professional to address issues involved with maintaining the disorder. Different theoretical approaches and guiding philosophies are used in different forms of psychotherapy.

Prescription medications can also help ease certain eating disorder symptoms.1 And several other therapies for eating disorders, including nutritional counseling, physical therapy, and even occupational therapy, can be incorporated in a treatment plan, depending on the patient's needs.

Last updated on 
August 25, 2023
August 25, 2023
Therapy for eating disorders
In this article

How does eating disorder therapy help?

Therapy for eating disorders helps provide patients with different ways of reflecting on their thoughts and actions. A therapist or form of therapy can help bring new perspectives to the patient, allowing them the chance to better understand their own motivations and address them. This can help the patient grow, move on, and heal from unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.

In addition, many types of therapy allow co-occurring mental health disorders to be treated alongside the eating disorder. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other mental health concerns often co-occur with eating disorders and work to drive the conditions. Being able to address these issues at the same time as addressing the eating disorder itself can significantly improve the chances of healing. 

Some therapy options are also designed to help someone continue to thrive long after they've left active treatment. For example, aftercare programs and support groups can provide long-term outlets to air concerns, look out for triggers, and remain accountable to recovery.

Therapy can be done from the comfort of your own home
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Different therapies for eating disorders

How to treat eating disorders in therapy depends on the person going through the experience and their individual history and journey. In that sense, the best therapy for eating disorders is the kind that's going to help someone best address their physical, mental, and emotional needs.

Just as people don't learn in the same ways, people also don't heal in the same ways. So different combinations of these common therapies for eating disorders may be helpful for each individual.

And regardless of the state of you or your loved one's mental illness, it's important to remember that every eating disorder is treatable. And at Within Health, online eating disorder therapy is always available.

Art therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy
Exposure therapy
Family therapy
Group therapy
Interpersonal psychotherapy
Self-help or guided self-help therapy

Eating disorder treatment for your needs at Within

At Within, we're here for you every step of the way, no matter your initial assessment or therapeutic needs. 

Our knowledgeable care team understands the differences and benefits of these and many other types of therapy and can help you create an individualized treatment plan catered to your specific condition, health, and best outcome. 

Everything from meal kits to experiential outings and after-hours support is accounted for in your personalized schedule. And our team can also help coordinate insurance to ensure you can participate in the program fully and confidently.

Most importantly, it's crucial to remember that it's never too late to seek help. The road to recovery can be difficult, but a healthier and happier life is always possible.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Muratore, A. F., & Attia, E. (2022). Psychopharmacologic management of eating disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports, 24(7), 345–351.
  2. Dresden, D. (2023, August 15). What is art therapy, and how does it work? Medical News Today. Accessed August 2023.
  3. de Jong, M., Schoorl, M., & Hoek, H. W. (2018). Enhanced cognitive behavioural therapy for patients with eating disorders: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 31(6), 436–444. 
  4. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Cleveland Clinic. Accessed August 2023. 
  5. Jewell, T., Blessitt, E., Stewart, C., Simic, M., Eisler, I. (2016). Family Therapy for Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders: A Critical Review. Family Process, 55(3), 577-594.  
  6. Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy. (2019, October 31). American Psychological Association. Accessed August 2023.  
  7. Murphy, R., Straebler, S., Basden, S., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2012). Interpersonal psychotherapy for eating disorders. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 19(2), 150–158. 
  8. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guided Self Help (CBT-GSH). National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Accessed August 2023. 
  9. Murphy, R., Straebler, S., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy for eating disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(3), 611–627.
  10. Jones, M., Brown, T. Why Early Intervention for Eating Disorders is Essential. National Eating Disorders Association. Accessed August 2023. 


What is the best therapy for eating disorders?

The best therapy for eating disorders is a very personal thing. Your medical history, background, and eating disorder symptoms may all play a role in what kind of eating disorder therapy will work best for you.

Still, in general, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the leading evidence-based treatment for eating disorders. This type of therapy has proven particularly effective at helping people with bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED), though people struggling with anorexia nervosa (AN) may benefit more from different types of therapy.9

What is eating disorder therapy like?

What eating disorder therapy is like depends on the type of therapy you're participating in.

Some eating disorder therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, follow more structured plans. They have designated timeframes for treatment, with different modules designed to help in different ways at different points in recovery.

Other types of therapy are more free-form or may not have a designated timeframe for length of treatment.

Therapy can also take place in a variety of settings. Individual therapy sessions may take place in a therapist's office or a private room at an eating disorder facility, while group therapy may take place in a larger, shared space at an inpatient or outpatient program.

Do I need therapy for an eating disorder?

Essentially, yes.

Eating disorders are serious mental health concerns, and the consequences of disordered eating behaviors can be dangerous or even deadly if left untreated. It's also very unlikely for these thoughts and behaviors to go away on their own.

But early intervention for eating disorders has been found to greatly help reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten recovery time.10 Getting therapy for an eating disorder can be a crucial way to help you or a loved one work through these unhelpful thoughts and behaviors before it's too late.

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