Posted on 1 Comment

Find a therapist for your child with an eating disorder

therapist child eating disorder

If your child is facing an eating disorder, you need a therapist, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Your child’s pediatrician may help you get an initial diagnosis. They can point you in the direction of therapists and/or treatment programs. But it’s still up to you, the parent, to make the right choice for your child.

First, consider how you will approach finding a therapist for your child. To do this, gather your insurance details. Next, find out how many sessions are included, what is your deductible, what therapists are included in your policy?

Opening questions

Before interviewing a therapist for your child with an eating disorder, consider getting the following details up-front:

  • Where is the therapist’s office? Is it reasonable for you to get your child there at least once per week?
  • How many times per week does the therapist want to see your child? What time slots do they have available? Will this schedule be feasible for you?
  • Will there be a co-pay or are you paying out of pocket? If so, can you afford this therapist?

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

We recommend identifying at least three different therapists to interview for your child. To find these therapists, you may have to call around from the list your insurance provider gave you. And be prepared for therapists who are not currently taking new clients, who don’t have time slots that work for you, or who do not work with children who have eating disorders. This can be frustrating work, so be prepared.

Once you begin interviewing therapists, stay organized! Keep detailed notes of the therapist’s name, rate/co-pay, recommended treatment plan, and any thoughts and details you get out of your interview. You will think you’ll be able to remember which therapist you like without notes. But it’s really much better if you document your interaction. Also, if the therapist you choose ends up not being a good fit after a few months’ treatment, you may want to revisit your notes.

Here are seven steps to help you find a great therapist for your child who has a mental health condition:

1. Check their credentials

There are many types of therapists, so it’s important to start by understanding what the different credentials mean. There are two main types of licensed therapists: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Both have a master’s-level degree and at least to years of supervised clinical practice. Both are qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat the full range of mental and emotional disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual through the use of psychotherapy. The difference between these two licenses is blurry. Therefore, it’s best to ask your prospective therapist why they pursued their particular license.

Your child’s therapist should have a certification to work with eating disorders. Alternatively, they should be in the process of getting one, and/or be under clinical supervision from someone who is certified. Your child can technically be treated for their eating disorder by a general therapist, but it is not recommended d.

You may encounter professionals who are in pursuit of their licenses, which means they can charge less. The trade-off is less experience. Be very clear about their level of training and understanding. This is particularly important as it relates to your child’s current health status.

2. Ask them questions

The single best thing you can do is ask a lot of questions. Choosing a therapist is not like choosing a car to buy. In other words, it’s not just about lining up cost and features and selecting based on rational criteria. Therapy is a relationship, not a transaction so it’s important for you to understand your therapist’s motivations, approach, and philosophy.

One of the best ways to evaluate how your child’s therapist will treat your child is to evaluate how they treat you when you ask questions. If they seem disturbed, bothered, or put out by your questions, that may be a sign of impatience. On the other hand, if they treat you with compassion and respect, while still maintaining professional boundaries, you can make an educated guess that they will treat your child in the same way.

3. Talk about expectations

It is perfectly reasonable for parents to ask a prospective therapist about what can be expected from the therapy process. There’s a good chance that the therapist’s answers will be somewhat vague since every therapeutic intervention is unique in its own way. Nonetheless, you should feel reassured that your child’s therapist has expectations for recovery and will follow a path that they believe will achieve certain milestones along the way.

4. Find out how you’ll be involved

The old model of childhood therapy was to keep the parents at a distance. The concept was that if a child was in therapy then their parents had done enough damage and needed to stay away so the child can heal. This hurtful approach is not recommended anymore since parents can be an essential component of healing from and managing an eating disorder.

Your child’s therapist should be able to give you an idea of how often they will communicate with you and whether there will be any family sessions incorporated into the treatment plan. You should also find out how the therapist wants you to communicate with them if you observe any dangerous or concerning behavior at home.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

5. Ask for a treatment plan

It doesn’t need to be typed up as a proposal, but your child’s therapist should be able to communicate with you what their treatment plan is based on your child’s condition. The treatment plan is designed to guide your child towards reaching recovery goals. It will also help your child’s therapist measure progress and make treatment adjustments along the way. A therapy treatment plan is not a rigid model, but it is a map to help the therapist, child, and parent all get on the same page about treatment.

6. Listen to your gut

Remember that therapy is a relationship, not a transaction, so one of the most important things, when you select a therapist for your child, is to listen to your gut. If you have an uneasy feeling or are unsure whether the therapist is a good fit for your child and your family, it’s OK to keep asking questions and interview some other professionals to test the waters.

It’s also OK if you engage a therapist and disengage later due to a lack of fit. Remember that the therapist’s work is likely going to disrupt some established patterns for you and your whole family, so when you’re evaluating a therapist, it can help to look closely at whether you really don’t like the therapist or if it’s just that you and your child are uncomfortable with the necessary changes that take place during eating disorder treatment.

7. Listen to your child

Your child is the one who is working with the therapist the most, so it’s important to listen to your child. Of course, some children are very resistant to therapy in the first place, so you have to listen very carefully to try and tease apart their resistance to recovery vs. their resistance to the therapist.

If your child is complaining about the therapist, that’s not always a sign that there’s a poor fit, but it’s definitely worth letting the therapist know what’s happening at home, and what the child is saying about therapy.

A child may seem engaged during therapy and be making progress, but then they speak poorly of the therapist to others. This is tricky, but don’t shy away from having open-ended conversations with your child about their experience with therapy and the therapist so you can help guide them towards health and healing.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to change the conversation about eating disorders and empower people to recover.  She’s the founder of, an online resource supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders, and a Parent Coach who helps parents supercharge their kid’s eating disorder recovery.

Ginny has been researching and writing about eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

Ginny’s most recent project is Recovery, a newsletter for deeply feeling people in recovery from diet culture, negative body image, and eating disorders.

See Our Eating Disorder Treatment Guide For Parents

1 thought on “Find a therapist for your child with an eating disorder

  1. […] concerns about your child’s eating disorder. They can support you in getting your child to meet some potential therapists and begin […]

Leave a Reply