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Eating Disorder Treatment: Hoes does a Dietitian differ from a Psychotherapist?

What is the difference between working with a dietitian vs. a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders? And are both really necessary?

Eating Disorder Nutritionist NYC

This is a common question we get asked, and we thought we’d take an opportunity to answer.

The difference can be illustrated through a botanical metaphor. Let’s say eating disorder recovery is a flower…

As Registered Dietitians, our work will mostly focus on the top half of the flower – the part with the colorful petals, and perhaps a bit of the stem. Our sessions may be more behaviorally focused, addressing how the eating disorder is actually “showing up,” and experimenting with new ways of relating to food and one’s body. The scope of our work is more honed in on specific themes of food and body, and usually involves discussing concrete, actionable strategies for developing a more nourishing relationship with eating and movement.

A psychotherapist’s work in contrast will mostly tend to the ‘deeper’ issues that underlie the eating disorder. They will generally focus more on the bottom half of the flower – the roots, the soil, and perhaps the lower half of the stem. They may address areas like relational patterns, inner conflicts, trauma, identity, emotion regulation, family of origin issues, and attachment, help you build insight around the origins of your eating disorder, and help you explore different ways of expressing and meeting your needs.

Essentially, we offer different types of “nourishment” that work together in synergy to help clients heal. Most people benefit from a combination of both types of support at some point along their eating disorder recovery journey, so that all parts of the flower get the care they need to grow. There may still be some overlap, but ongoing communication between a dietitian and therapist helps to ensure that each support space is complementing and reinforcing one another (instead of feeling repetitive).

Whether you’re currently in the midst of recovering from an eating disorder or contemplating getting support, we hope this is informative along your journey.


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