Confronting the reality of an eating disorder can be a daunting task, whether you’re facing the challenge yourself or concerned about a loved one. Deciding how and where to get help can feel overwhelming and stressful.

While there is no simple answer to the common question “Where can I find help for an eating disorder?” – hopefully the following guidelines will provide a framework (and some valuable resources) to navigate the process.

Do not rely exclusively on a search engine
While a quick Google search may crank out a few names of therapists or treatment centers, don’t necessarily assume the top few results are the best options for you. You’ll want to find the provider best aligned with your personal needs, background, severity of your condition and your goals. Some due diligence will be definitely be required. Luckily there are some great resources to connect you with reputable providers with strong interdisciplinary connections. The National Eating Disorders Association has both basic and advanced search options for those seeking treatment, and Eating Disorder Hope features a list of treatment centers on their website, as well as a therapist directory.

Consider the location, cost and model of care
When finding care, your first thought might be “where is there eating disorder treatment near me?” Like the Google example above, what appears at the top of the results doesn’t automatically make it the best choice for you. Sometimes local options may not be in-network with your insurance, resulting in costly bills. Others might not offer the flexibility of multiple levels of care, meaning you’ll have to transfer providers as your treatment needs change. Others might not deliver a specialized level of programming you require (see the next tip).

The reality is that there are hundreds of treatment options across the country. Many individuals stay close to home, while others may travel hundreds of miles. The best option is often what you’re most comfortable with. Some people may prefer an urban area where they can challenge themselves while out on a pass as they progress through their care. Others may wish for the soothing respite of the desert or the ocean. College students may want to receive treatment close to campus.

If any of this entails traveling, some programs may offer scholarships or partner with an organization that provides them, such as Project Heal, to help take care of related expenses.

Explore various specializations within the field
There are many wonderful, skilled and passionate people out there working to help those with eating disorders recover. Some clinicians specialize in treating those with co-occurring issues such as substance use, trauma or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Others work with athletes, the LGBTQ community or have additional training in family work. The same goes for treatment centers. If you or your loved one have a unique need, you may want to opt for a place with specialized programming.

How will you involve your support system?
Recovery does not occur in a vacuum, and enlisting the support of friends or family is key. Family-Based Therapy (FBT) for adolescents is an evidence-based method that is particularly effective with anorexia nervosa, and operates under the belief that everyone in the family has a role in eating disorder recovery. For an adult who is seeking care, do the providers or treatment centers you are considering offer family sessions for a spouse, parent, or even a roommate or a coach? How frequently will your outpatient team receive communication if you are in a program? Transparency is key to recovery, and your support network – both personal and professional – should be incorporated into your care in some way or another.

Taking the first step towards finding help for an eating disorder takes courage, determination and patience. Finding the right team or treatment center can be quite the process, but at the end of the day, make all the difference in the world.

Of course, I’m happy to be a resource – you can always email me and I can point you in the right direction.

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Fiona LaRosa-Waters is Community Relations Specialist for Walden Behavioral Care. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services at Lesley University, and is currently pursuing an M.Ed in Health Education through the Eating Disorders Institute at Plymouth State University. Prior to coming to Walden, Fiona held positions as a professional outreach representative for eating disorder, substance use, and trauma treatment facilities, was a counselor in a treatment center for adult women with eating disorders and provided outpatient case management for clients struggling with addictions and eating disorders. She is passionate about helping people locate resources to support treatment and recovery, advancing education about eating disorders and addiction and about connecting with the mental health community.