What does a Bulimia Therapist do?

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  • Written By: Jeany Miller
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2020
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People diagnosed with bulimia nervosa often partake in binge eating episodes followed by excessive use of laxatives or self-induced vomiting. This eating disorder may require bulimia intervention that is performed by a licensed professional. A bulimia therapist often works to determine the underlying emotional and psychological causes of bulimia. Therapists may also address the effect of bulimia on one’s sense of self, inter-personal relationships and abilities to perform daily activities. Bulimia help may be provided with the use of several different therapies, including behavior analysis, cognitive therapy and family-based therapy.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that usually afflicts adolescent females. It is often characterized by episodes of binge eating, followed by purging that may involve excessive laxatives or self-induced vomiting. Both events often occur in private, as people with the disorder are often ashamed and embarrassed by their behavior. As a result of the cognitive thoughts involved, treating bulimia may be an intense and lengthy process.

A person who seeks to provide bulimia support is often known as a bulimia therapist. This person may work in an out-patient clinic, a residency environment where patients live for a defined period of time or in a private practice. Bulimia therapists may collaborate with a team of professionals, including physicians, dieticians and social workers. Their patients are likely to range considerably in terms of age, ethnicity, familial status and education, so therapists may need to be prepared for communicating to a diverse group.


A first task of many bulimia therapists is to establish a relationship with each patient based upon mutual respect and understanding. This may coincide with patient assesment and begin without an initial treatment plan. After, the therapist may start to uncover the actual causes of bulimia. This usually occurs through general conversation, and the therapist can build a treatment plan based upon those conversations. Plans may relate to establishing a healthier body image, learning new coping mechanisms for stress and eliminating feelings of shame and guilt.

A bulimia therapist may also explore how the disease impacts a patient’s sense of self, inter-personal relationships and abilities to perform everyday activities. Therapists may use a variety of tools during counseling sessions, including a personal journal for the patient or an individually-created meal plan. A bulimia therapist may also teach patients relaxation or stress-relieving techniques to help them develop healthier lifestyles.

In addition to tools, an eating disorder therapist may use specific forms of therapy conducted in individual or group settings. Common among these are behavior analysis, cognitive therapy and family-based therapy. With behavior analysis, the therapist may create a system of rewards and reactions for fighting bulimic tendencies. Cognitive therapy may be used to examine the thoughts, beliefs and values that lead to bulimia. Family therapy is often a way to educate family members and garner their support for the patient.

A master’s degree in a behavioral science field is often required for one who wants to become a bulimia therapist, although some employers seek post-Doctoral candidates. Educational emphasis may need to be on eating disorders, and the appropriate local or national licensing requirements should be met. Sample job duties of a bulimia therapist may include participating in individual and group counseling sessions, conducting assessments on clients and families, planning for treatment and discharge and documenting in the patient’s chart all relevant information and action taken.


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