National Eating Disorders Association

Eating disorders are serious health conditions that can be both physically and emotionally destructive. It is important that people with eating disorders seek professional help. There are many differing approaches to the treatment of eating disorders. No one approach is considered superior for everyone, so it is important to find the option that is most effective for your needs. The following is a list of questions you might want to ask when contacting eating-disorder support services. 

Questions to ask of an individual therapist, treatment facility, other eating-disorder support services, or any combination of treatment options (some or all of these questions may be relevant to your circumstances):

  • What is your experience and how long have you been treating eating disorders?
  • How are you licensed? What are your training credentials? Do you belong to the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED)? 
  • How would you describe your treatment style? 
  • Are you familiar with the APA Guidelines for the treatment of eating disorders
  • What kind of evaluation process do you use to recommend a treatment plan? Who is involved in that planning?
  • What are the measurable criteria you use to assess how well treatment is working? Can you give me a few examples? Do you or your facility have a quality improvement program in place, or regularly assess the outcome of the treatment provided?
  • Do you use published clinical practice guidelines to guide your treatment planning for eating disorders? How?
  • What psychotherapeutic approaches and tools do you use?
  • How do you treat coexisting mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety?
  • How do you decide which approach is best for the patient? Do you ever use more than one approach? When?
  • What kind of medical information do you need? Will a medical evaluation be needed before treatment begins?
  • How will you work with other doctors, such as medical doctors, who may need to provide care?
  • How often will you communicate with them?
  • Will you work with my workplace/school? How often do you communicate with them?
  • Will medication play a role in treatment?
  • Do you work with a psychopharmacologist if medication seems indicated or do I find one on my own?
  • What is your availability in an emergency? If you are not available, what are my alternatives?
  • What are your criteria for determining whether a patient needs to be hospitalized?
  • What is your appointment availability? Do you offer after-work or early morning appointments? How long does each counseling session last? How many will there be and how often?
  • What happens in counseling sessions? If a particular session is upsetting, what is your followup protocol?
  • How often will you meet with parents?
  • How do you involve key family members or friends?
  • What specific goals will be set for treatment and how will they be communicated?
  • How and when will progress be assessed?
  • How long will the treatment process take? When will we know it’s time to stop treatment?
  • Do you charge for phone calls or emails from patients or family between sessions? If so, what do you charge and how and to whom (insurance company or patient) is that billed?
  • Will you send me written information, a treatment plan, treatment price, etc.? 
  • Do you deal directly with the insurer or do I need to do that?
  • When is payment due?
  • Which, if any, insurance plans to you participate in? Will you bill my carrier directly (if your visits are covered)? What is your fee structure if I don’t have insurance coverage, or should I lose it during treatment? Do you have a sliding fee scale?

It is important for you to research your insurance coverage policy and what treatment alternatives are available in order for you and your treatment provider to design a treatment plan that suits your coverage.  The more information the facility or provider is able to send in writing, the better informed you will be. If the first time you meet with him or her feels awkward, don’t be discouraged.  The first few appointments with any treatment provider are often challenging. It takes time to build up trust in someone with whom you are sharing highly personal information.  If you continue to feel that you need a different therapeutic environment, you may need to consider other providers.