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According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 1.0 percent of young women and 0.1 percent of young men meet the criteria for being diagnosed with bulimia nervosa and may need to begin treatment. People with this frightening disorder enter treatment programs almost on a daily basis, but just as many likely seek alternative forms of therapy. Take a look at some of the alternative forms of therapy that can be beneficial for treating bulimia nervosa, some of which can be included in a bulimia treatment plan.

Meditation Therapy

For centuries, meditation has been thought to help people achieve a calmer state of being in which they can achieve mental clarity, find renewed energy, and focus on overcoming personal emotional obstacles. Meditation as part of bulimia therapy is beneficial because individuals often struggle with overcoming feelings of anxiety and stress that can trigger their eating disorder behaviors.

Body Awareness Therapy

Body awareness therapy can come in many different forms, and some form of this therapy type is usually used as a bulimia treatment option. Body awareness therapy is designed with a focus around recognizing the bodies feelings and movements. Studies of body awareness therapy suggest that using this as a therapeutic tool during treatment for eating disorders could help people establish a more realistic body image, which is something that people in bulimia treatment centers tend to struggle with the most. Negative portrayals of the self-image in the mind can drive bulimic behaviors and thoughts, so through body awareness therapy, individuals are better capable of seeing their own bodies in a clear way.

Yoga Therapy

Yoga is a form of physical exercise, but it involves slow and calculated movements, focused breathing, and absolute concentration on the body’s movements. Therefore, yoga as part of a bulimia nervosa treatment plan can be a highly useful tool. Bulimia treatment centers like Monte Nido have daily yoga sessions as bulimia treatment options for clients because the yoga can be so beneficial to the recovery process.

In a study of how yoga affected women, the participants saw changes and improvements in:

  • having a positive body image
  • making better dietary choices
  • having a positive sense of well-being

All of these ideas are things that people in bulimia treatment centers tend to struggle with most. Therefore, yoga could be a powerful tool to help people overcome some of their struggles during treatment.

Massage Therapy

There is no question why massage is beneficial for the body; it helps to relax the various parts of the musculoskeletal system. However, massage therapy can also be beneficial for the mind, so it is also a useful tool for recovery. Massage can be used as part of a therapeutic approach because it induces a calmer state, helps to override anxious thoughts, and encourages relaxation. Massage therapy has the ability to do things like lower stress hormones and increase dopamine levels, which can help an individual feel better on an emotional level and focus on getting well.

General Approaches Used in Eating Disorder Treatment

Although each and any of the above techniques can be used as a supplement to an eating disorder recovery plan, the core of recovery is similar for most cases. Eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and anorexia nervosa are all complex disorders that affect a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. As such, a multifaceted approach is necessary for recovery; treating only one aspects leaves an individual at risk for relapse.

To address the physical, mental, and emotional health needs of each client a treatment plan is created by the facility. Although each aspect is intertwined, they can generally be broken down into three categories:

  • Physical – Eating disorders like bulimia nervosa can take a toll on a person’s health. There can be weight fluctuations, malnutrition and a wide array of other health risks at play. When entering a recovery center, the first priority is to stabilize the client medically. This might involve medication or hospitalization. In almost every case, nutrition and meal planning is essential to the recovery process. Dietitians will work with clients to plan meals that the client is comfortable eating, which also help restore their nutritional balance. Proper nutrition greatly affects mental function as well, so getting back on track nutritionally helps the recovery process. Many people with eating disorders also struggle with disordered exercise patterns, so mindful movement is usually also part of a recovery plan.
  • Mental – Mental health is perhaps even more complex than physical health. For people with eating disorders, treatment can involve therapy, psychiatric practices, and personal growth. On a psychiatric basis, there are many co-occurring disorders commonly affecting clients, such as OCD, anxiety, and depression. Although these disorders might have available medications (which are certainly useful in treating eating disorders patients), there are no medications specifically designed for eating disorders. However, psychiatric techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are proven techniques as viable for eating disorder recovery as they are for addiction recovery.
  • Emotional – Addressing a client’s underlying issues, which have helped to trigger their eating disorder, is essential to long-term recovery. Chief among these is treating PTSD, as trauma is a powerful trigger for coping mechanisms like disordered eating. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), a therapy technique designed to help soldiers process their trauma, has become widespread in mental health treatment on a larger scale. Other traditional talk therapy like individual sessions and group encounters are also cornerstones of eating disorder treatment. They help a person understand themselves and their place in the world, and how their relationships with their body and food have been affected.

Seeking Help Is Easier Than You Think

Overall, bulimia nervosa therapy should include a vast array of different treatment options and methods, and the best treatment centers work to incorporate many alternative and traditional treatments in their plans. Monte Nido uses all of these therapy types in their facilities in different ways, in addition to a number of other methods to create the most comprehensive recovery plan possible. If you would like to know more about Monte Nido’s treatment options for bulimia nervosa recovery, reach out to us for more information.


Melissa Spann, PhD, LMHC, CEDS-S

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.