Pathways to treatment

Finding the right information and accessing care for eating disorders can be difficult. Your GP, carers and supports can help you identify the best treatment for your needs. 

Services are often different in each state, territory or local area. You may need to do some further research to understand the options near you. 

If one of these services does not work for you, please try another – regardless of the reason. This is your decision to make. Remember that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible, even if you have been living with the illness for a long time. 

Navigating the System of Care

There are different eating disorder service options offering support from initial diagnosis, through to treatment and recovery. You may connect with just one of these services, or you may use a different service at each point in your care. The National Eating Disorder Collaboration (NEDC) Service Locator can help you find services in your area. 

The stepped system of care for eating disorders explains how services or treatment needs can change in intensity with your changing physical, psychological, nutritional and functional needs. This helps you to access the right type of support at the right time.  You may also need to change treatment along your recovery journey.  For example, you may need to access a more intensive service such as a day program, or you may move from a public-funded mental health service that provides frequent appointments to a private clinician whom you see less often. 

Having support from a mental health professional and a medical practitioner (e.g. GP) are important components of your treatment, with a dietitian, psychiatrist or other allied health professionals brought in as needed. Your family, carer or supports also play an important role in care, support and recovery. 

If you would like to learn more about the stepped system of care and the services available within each of these steps, please see the NEDC website.

Finding a treatment provider

You can find a credentialed mental health professional, dietitian or GP under Find Eating Disorder Help. Clinicians listed have the qualifications, experience and training provided to provide safe and effective eating disorder care, and could work in early identification, initial response, treatment or recovery.

Treatment for someone experiencing an eating disorder is usually delivered by a multidisciplinary team. This usually includes a medical practitioner (such as your GP), a mental health professional, and a dietitian. Mental health professionals can include counsellors, mental health nurses, nurse practitioners occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers. Your GP may also be able to provide mental health treatment if they have completed training in this area.

Further information about the roles of different professions providing eating disorder treatment can be found here, and details of specific evidence-based treatments can be found here.

When searching for a treatment provider, understanding the setting in which they work can be helpful so you know the type of service that you will be attending, and who else from their team may be supporting you in your recovery journey.


Treatment Settings

Private Practice
Clinicians working in private practice may work within a larger practice, as a sole practitioner, within a multidisciplinary care setting, or in a headspace centre. If your GP refers you to a private practitioner, you can choose the person you would like to see, and each clinician will have specific interests and skill sets which you can learn about on this website and by asking the practice. Your clinician will develop a treatment plan with you and together you can decide how often you will attend appointments. Some private practices have a wait list so it can be helpful to ask about this, as well as fees, when you contact them. Your treatment provider will work closely with your GP to make sure that your physical and mental health needs are well supported. 
Considerations: If you live in a rural or remote area, or you cannot find a mental health professional in your local area, you may be able to have a telehealth video consultation instead. If your treatment provider can claim under Medicare, Medicare rebates may be available for both telehealth and in-person appointments. If you are searching for a Credentialed Eating Disorder Clinician, you can choose telehealth as an option through the search function. Information on costs of treatment can be found here. 
Who can I contact: You can find a Credentialed Eating Disorder Clinician through the searchable directory on the Find Eating Disorder Help page. You can also speak to your GP about eating disorder services in your area. If you are looking for support now for yourself or someone you know, we encourage you to contact the Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673. If you are concerned about immediate safety, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. 
Public Health Services - Child, Youth & Adult
Each state has their own government-funded mental health services located in metropolitan, regional and rural areas. If you are referred to a public mental health service, you will be allocated a case manager or treatment provider rather than being able to choose. You will also see a psychiatrist and some services may have a dietitian or other allied health professionals as part of your treating team. Many public mental health services are only able to see people who have certain eating disorder diagnoses, with some limited to seeing only those with Anorexia Nervosa or Atypical Anorexia Nervosa. 
Considerations: It is free to attend these services, and your GP, paediatrician, or psychiatrist can help you understand more about eligibility for your local service and make a referral for you. These services may have a wait list – contact them if you want to know about wait times. 
Who can I contact: Mental health services provide service according to age – Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or Child & Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) for children and adolescents and Adult or Community Mental Health Service (AMHS or CMHS) for adults. Search online in your local area to find your closest service. You can also talk to your GP about local options. 
Eating Disorder-Specific Programs
There are some public and private services which focus specifically on eating disorders – these programs may sit within a hospital setting or as a separate service. Generally, these programs will offer more intensive services; this means you may see your mental health treatment provider regularly and may work with other professionals within the team such as a psychiatrist and dietitian. These programs may include individual therapy, group therapy and/or support with meals. Some services may also offer outreach, visiting you in your home, or longer stay residential care. Similar to public mental health services, eating disorder-specific programs may have policies that they are only able to see people who have certain eating disorder diagnoses.
Considerations: The costs of these programs will depend on whether they sit within a public or private service. You can ask about these from your GP or directly from the service.