Every persons eating disorder is a very personal experience to them. Different people respond to different types of treatment, even though they may be experiencing the same type of eating disorder as someone else. Outlined here are the different types of therapy, therapists and treatment settings that are recommended for the treatment of eating disorders.

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Treatment Options

Provided by The Butterfly Foundation

We have partnered with The Butterfly Foundation to bring you the best factsheet information we can on this topic. The Butterfly Foundation provides support for Australians for suffer from eating disorders and negative body issues and their carers.

Every persons eating disorder is a very personal experience to them. Different people respond to different types of treatment, even though they may be experiencing the same type of eating disorder as someone else.

Outlined here are the different types of therapy, therapists and treatment settings that are recommended for the treatment of eating disorders.

Types of Therapy

There are three approaches that have been demonstrated to be most effective in assisting people with eating disorders.

Maudsley Family Therapy

Maudsley Family Therapy is an intensive outpatient approach that involves the whole family and employs theImage by http://www.flickr.com/photos/cgc/ parents as a resource to help re‐feed the person experiencing the eating disorder. Carers play an active role in assisting the
person to recover from their eating disorder. The focus on treatment is divided into three stages.

The first stage entails restoring weight, the second stage is concerned with handing the control of eating back to the person, and the third stage encourages normal life development. This approach is usually used for adolescents and young adults.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is an individual treatment that treats many types of emotional, behavioural and psychiatric problems, including eating disorders. CBT enables people to establish links between their thoughts, feelings and actions and their current or past symptoms. CBT helps people to address their unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that maintain an eating disorder and learn (or relearn), healthier skills and habits.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT is an individual treatment that focuses on the connection between interactions with people and the development of a person’s symptoms. The person is encouraged to explore their interactions
with others and how these interactions make them feel.

Other Approaches

People experiencing or having recovered from an eating disorder have also reported finding the following approaches helpful:

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

DBT is an intensive individual treatment that focuses on developing various skills to cope with distress.
Skills are focused around four key themes:

  • mindfulness
  • distress tolerance
  • emotion regulation
  • interpersonal effectiveness

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is an individual treatment that focuses on accepting what is out of one’s personal control and teaches how to manage feelings and thoughts. ACT teaches psychological skills to deal with painful thoughts and feelings so that they don’t have as much influence over someone’s life.

ACT encourages someone to clarify what is truly important to his or her life in order to create a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Narrative Therapy is an individual treatment that involves writing and exploring stories people hold about their lives and relationships. It places value in telling and retelling these stories.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET is an individual treatment that aims to explore the reasons for holding onto the eating disorder. It helps to facilitate readiness to change. Therapists might incorporate this technique secondary to other approaches.


Psychotherapy is an individual treatment that looks at underlying issues that might be causing disordered ideas and behaviours.

Types of Therapists

Any treatment for an eating disorder should include medical monitoring by a doctor as well as therapeutic and/or dietetic involvement.

General Practitioner (GP)

A GP is a doctor who has general medical expertise. GP’s usually provide overall care for patients, including the possible prescribing and administrating of medications.

They will often refer to other doctors and health professionals. GP’s experience with eating disorders can vary greatly. Wtach the BeyondBlue Youth video about visiting a GP above for more info.


A Pediatrician is a doctor who has particular expertise with children and adolescents.


Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has undertaken further study in psychiatry. Their focus is on diagnosing and treating mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. The primary intervention is administrating medication although some provide psychological support. See the Bite Back and BeyondBlue Youth videos above for more info on visiting a Psychiatrist.


A Psychologist is a therapist who conducts assessments, utilises therapeutic interviewing and provides counseling and education. Clinical Psychologists have undertaken an additional two years of university study and have particular expertise in treating mental illnesses.

Social Worker

A Social Worker is a therapist who counsels individuals and links people to other community resources. See the BeyondBlue Youth Video above about visiting a Youth Worker.


A Counsellor is a therapist who provides active listening to help facilitate people to work through various issues.


A Psychotherapist is a therapist that provides longterm therapy to assist in understanding the self.


A Dietician is a trained professional who counsels and educates people about nutrition. The primary goal is the modification of what someone eats, as well as relevant habits and attitudes. A dietician will help someone to address their fears and concerns about food and weight. They will also help the person re‐learn how to eat normally when they have lost all sense of what ‘normal eating’ is.

Treatment Settings

Depending on the different stage of illness that a person is experiencing, different intensities of treatment will be required.


24 hour treatment usually provided by a hospital or similarly structured and contained environment. This will include medical assistance and also potentially, therapy.


Treatment overseen by a hospital, however does not require the person to stay in hospital. It usually involves input from a team of health professionals. Patients are encouraged to maintain every day responsibilities while seeking treatment.

Day Program

Treatment receives over a whole day or several days per week. It usually includes structured eating sessions and active treatment interventions whilst someone lives at home.
Treatment is usually tapered down slowly so as to help the person re‐adjust to life at home and in the wider community

Where to go for help

It is important that if you believe you or someone you know has an eating disorder to seek professional assistance immediately. It can be scary and frightening to make this first step, however the earlier help is sought, and the quicker the road to recovery. If you require a referral to a general practitioner or other health practitioner practicing in the eating disorder field, please contact The Butterfly Foundation for a confidential referral

The Butterfly Foundation offers telephone and email support for those with eating disorders and their family and friends. This confidential and supportive counselling service is available on
1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or

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