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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.


Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.

Family Role in Bulimia Recovery

Families can help support a family member who is suffering from bulimia, but the family cannot take on the entire responsibility of eating disorder treatment. I believe it is unfair and unreasonable to expect family members to become qualified treatment providers. They can love, help, support and encourage, but the best of families will stagger under the expectation that family members alone can bring healing to the bulimic person in their midst.

An article from Women's Health about Long-Term Effects of Bulimia Nervosa states: "Home and family support are proven to be the best way of treating this condition."

The article does not state where these proofs can be found.

In my opinion, statements like this put a burden of guilt and feelings of helplessness on families and people with eating disorders who do not understand bulimia or what the person with bulimia needs for effective recovery work. The article describes the dire consequences of untreated long-term bulimia.

To say that the family alone is responsible for the bulimic person's recovery implies that these dire results could have been avoided if the family attended to the bulimic person with undefined methods of treatment at home.

Certainly an informed, caring and supportive family can play an important part in a person's recovery. But the best and most well-intentioned families can play a part in recovery, not carry the entire responsibility.

The person with bulimia and their family can have access to effective treatment far beyond the limits of what a family can provide. This article ignores a vast recovery community made up of professionals and lay people who dedicate their lives to bulimia treatment and recovery.


Bulimia Recovery and Treatment Resources:

  • Mental health professionals in private practice specializing in eating disorder treatment
  • In-patient and out-patient clinics for eating disorder patients
  • Nutritionists specializing in eating disorders
  • Endocrinologists specializing in eating disorders
  • Overeaters Anonymous 12-step program
  • Eating disorder support groups
  • Positive and helpful websites with discussion forums

And many more resources exist that do not focus directly on eating disorder treatment but can be very helpful in supporting recovery: e.g., classes and activities that encourage creativity, spiritual programs and activities that are in harmony with the individual's beliefs and inner sense of life, volunteer programs that enhance a person's sense of self-worth.

Families suffer when a loved one suffers. Families do not need to carry a burden of guilt because family members are not treatment specialists. Families need support and education about eating disorders.

Families need to know what they can and cannot do to help. Then, their loving energy can support the bulimic person as she (or he) works toward recovery using a wide array of treatment providers and resources geared to the specific needs of bulimia healing.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.

She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder

Appointments are virtual.

For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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