What Therapists Do That Is Helpful To My Recovery

Many people are curious about how therapy works and what exactly happens in a session that empowers someone to make significant changes in their life. When seeking to heal an eating disorder, there are many facets of healing to address.

Clearly, the client and therapist will need to discuss how the client feels about their relationship with food and their body. It’s also important to address the underlying feelings that brought on the eating disorder. These topics are sensitive and can lead to a lot of defensiveness and resistance.

We’ve often discussed with families how to navigate being there for their loved one in a way that can maintain a positive, supportive relationship. It was often most helpful when the person struggling was able say for themselves what was helpful to be asked, how to be asked, when to be asked, etc.

Because of this, we polled our clients and asked them what it is that their therapists do to help them in their recovery. Below are their responses.

My therapist:

  • allows all feelings (the good and the bad)
  • speaks in the moment
  • tells the truth without judgment
  • asks specific questions and draws out information
  • doesn’t assume things
  • acknowledges my fear as real
  • understands when I feel ambivalent regarding getting better
  • is patient and knows that it takes time
  • validates my experiences
  • is not emotionally connected/shows emotion to my behaviors

Understandably, it can feel overwhelming to know what to ask a loved one that doesn’t lead to an argument or them shutting down. In addition to these responses, below is a list of suggested questions and statements for friends and family members. These are from the book, The Eating Disorder Sourcebook, by Carolyn Costin.

Questions to ask:

  • Is your eating disorder self giving you a hard time right now?
  • I know part of you sees it that way, but is there another part of you also?
  • Is your eating disorder voice saying something?
  • Maybe I can help you not listen to that part.
  • What would your healthy self say?

Support persons may also feel stumped on how to respond to things that feel disordered, but their loved one believes is not. Below are a few possible statements and suggestions on how to respond.

  •  “I am a vegetarian.”

    • Instead of: “Being a vegetarian is a form of food restriction that serves your eating disorder,”
    • Try: “That is your choice.  I would like to help you learn to be a healthy vegetarian.”


  • “I don’t want to talk about my binge.”

    • Instead of: “It is important for you to talk to me about it if I am going to help you.”
    • Try: “I will accept that, can you tell me why you don’t want to talk about it?”


  • “I don’t want to gain weight.”

    • Instead of: “You have to gain weight to get better.”
    • Try: “I would like to understand what that would mean for you, gaining weight.” (this can help the person discuss the purpose of the low weight and its pros and cons)


 If you would like to learn more about working with an Evolve clinician, we offer a complimentary 15-minute call.


 A portion of this blog is from The Eating Disorder Sourcebook