Treatment Possibilities for Eating Disorders

This is part three of a four-part primer on eating disorders provided by eating-disorders specialist Isabelle Tierney, M.A., LMFT, BHSP.  Isabelle lives in Boulder Colorado and provides web-based and in-person trainings, seminars, in-services, and interventions throughout the US and abroad.  For this article, InnerChange asked Isabelle about treatment options for sufferers of eating disorders.

For more information about Isabelle Tierney’s programs and services visit  To schedule a consultation, seminar, or interview, call 303-817-6912.

Treatment possibilities vary widely, though the effectiveness of many approaches is not necessarily corroborated by science.   Educating yourself on the various treatment modalities and seeking professional training in the specifics of eating disorders is a big step in effectively helping those who struggle with eating disorders.


  • Family therapy is the most successful type of treatment IF the child is under 18 AND lives at home
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been studied extensively and offers strong positive initial outcomes but does not necessarily have promising long-term outcomes
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is increasingly used in hospitals and clinics with some success
  • The more support the client receives, the better her potential for recovery: a combination of individual, group, and family therapy is ideal (e.g. that provided by a residential treatment program)
  • Other therapies are proving successful as adjunct treatments for eating disorders, including art therapy, equine therapy, energy healing, and massage therapy, to name a few
  • Pharmaceutical treatments can be effective for some but not all; SSRIs (anti-depressants) work especially well with bulimics
  • Money is being poured into research to explore the idea that a person’s risk for developing eating disorders is genetic; the latest such study showed that more than half (56%) of a person’s risk for developing anorexia is determined by genes, with environmental factors determining the rest

There are almost infinite numbers of ways to combine therapeutic modalities to create an individualized treatment strategy for those suffering from anorexia, bulimia, and EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified), but the length of this article does not allow me to elaborate on these.  For more information on promising treatment approaches, please go to, or consult with an eating disorders specialist.