Hello, blog! Today’s article is going to be a little different and a bit shorter since I am still working on the Coping Skills Guide (Part 2) and planning out some more content, but it is just as important. Before I talk about residential, IOP, PHP, or more coping skills- let’s talk about therapy. All therapists have different skills, specialties, experience, and personalities- so it is important that you find one that aligns with your wants and needs. Especially if you are getting help for an eating disorder/disordered eating, it is so important to have a therapist who has experience! These questions are designed to help you determine if a therapist is a good match for you and make a sometimes awkward/intimidating conversation easier. In no particular order, here are 10 questions to ask your therapist:
What kind of experience do you have with eating disorders/disordered eating?
Experience is SO important for a therapist to have when it comes to eating disorders/disordered eating. Eating disorders will thrive when they’re a secret- or are allowed to go unquestioned and unbothered. You need someone who will validate you without complimenting or praising the eating disorder, but also someone who will give you ED specific coping skills/guidance and be willing to ask you tough questions.
Do you have clients currently that are similar to me?
This one is useful for underrepresented voices in the ED community or if you’re at a specific point in your life, such as being in college. If your therapist has other clients around your age, of similar background, or with the same/similar disorder, they will also have more experience and can help you navigate stressors that have to do with that specific thing/identity/etc.
Do you have any specific specialties, such as DBT, RO DBT, or other skills knowledge that could potentially benefit me?
Specialties, coping skill knowledge/practices, and continued education are all things that make up a therapist’s practice. DBT and RO DBT are both specific types of psychotherapies that are common for ED experienced therapists to go by or have knowledge of. A lot of my favorite coping skills, worksheets, and information came from the DBT teachings, but it’s all about what you think will help you personally.
Do you know what HAES is?
HAES, or Health at Every Size, is essentially a movement/hypothesis that says an individual can be healthy at any size. It takes into account your individual set point (natural weight/where your body likes to be) and the mind/body combination that is so important for a healthy relationship with food. I think if you are struggling with an eating disorder/disordered eating it can be nice to have someone that believes in HAES and isn’t fatphobic or going to push harmful beliefs onto you.
What is a typical session like?
This one is just good to know in general! Length of sessions, if they lead or you lead, and if any skills get worked on are all great things to know before deciding on a therapist.
How often do you think I would benefit from seeing you?
If you aren’t sure how much you want/need to see a therapist, this is a great question to ask. Most, in my experience, start you off at once a week and gradually go longer between sessions. If you have a specific schedule in mind that works for you, be vocal about those needs!
Do you give any homework/worksheets or other resources in between or during sessions?
Some of my most beneficial work has been done via worksheets! I love journaling– we all know this- and worksheets fall into a similar category, but they can be so helpful. Worksheets about personality types, efficient coping skills, identifying values, listing food fears/beliefs, and goal setting can all be very helpful and if hands-on work is important to you, this question may be a big one!
Are there any dietitians you are familiar with or often work with that you could recommend to me?
If you need a dietitian, it’s always good to ask. Sometimes they have a colleague or someone they work very closely with and that can benefit you by making your life easier! If you don’t need a dietitian, ignore this question.
What insurance do you accept? (If none: cost of care)
Money, money, money- it’s serious stuff! Finding a therapist who works with your insurance can save you a lot of trouble, but it’s just as important to find someone you feel can help you. Most people also list this on their website these days, but remember to ask just in case! Also, ask about free/cheap support groups and resources you can use between sessions.
How comfortable are you communicating with my support system or other members of my treatment team?
Like I said: eating disorders love silence. They love to go unchallenged and unnoticed- but you can’t let them. Once you sign the HIPAA papers, it’s important that your therapist is comfortable giving and receiving information/feedback on how you’re doing. A support system is vital in any mental health struggle and it’s important that everyone feels supported, informed, and able to help you! If therapists (or any other professional on your team) are hesitant to reach out when you are struggling or don’t want to talk to other members of your team, this is a red flag and won’t help you at all in the long run.
Finding a new therapist and starting therapy altogether can be intimidating and frustrating, but hopefully these questions help you have those conversations with potential therapists to help you determine who is right for your needs. Eating disorders/disordered eating thrive in secrecy, so it is important to have a therapist with experience and knowledge that knows how these specific problems work and can better help you cope, heal, and thrive.
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All content on RecovRoad is based on personal experiences, research, and ideas. Please do not repost/share without credit and be aware that nothing on this blog takes the place of professional help. This is also a formal trigger warning: content about and relating to eating disorders may be triggering to survivors. Please see the “RESOURCES” tab, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 800-931-2237, and remember to take care of yourself.