When a family first seeks help for an eating disorder, it can be unclear what services are available, how to access them, and how long this may take.

Usually a visit to your GP is the first step. If your child/loved one is reluctant to attend with you, it should be possible to go without them for an initial consultation. 

Individual therapy for the person suffering the eating disorder may available from NHS, depending where you live. Sometimes Family Therapy is available, providing a safe space to explore issues together. Depending on age, treatment may be provided by CAMHS or Adult Services.

NHS eating disorder services for young people in Essex (Under 18)

From 1 November 2015, all Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across Southend, Essex, Colchester and Thurrock are called Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services (EWMHS) and are run by NELFT. The services have the long term aim of responding earlier to children’s needs to help prevent, reduce or delay the need for more specialist interventions.

Call 0300 300 1600 to access the EWMHS during working hours 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

There is also a dedicated email address for referrals:

For out of hours and weekend Crisis Support Service, please call the general NELFT switchboard on 0300 555 1201 to be put through to the Crisis Support Service.

NELFT’s EWMHS is for anybody aged between 0-18, living in the Southend, Essex, Colchester and Thurrock areas and is free at the point of entry.
Any young person experiencing emotional wellbeing or mental health problems, or any parent, guardian or teacher of a child who is experiencing emotional wellbeing and mental health difficulties, may access the services.

Web link to the NELFT EWMHS site:

Adult Eating Disorders Services

In mid and North Essex, eating disorder services for 18+ age group are provided by  Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT).  

The Adult Eating Disorders Team welcomes pre-referral telephone calls from referrers or concerned family members.  Phone: 01206 333300 

Family Therapy

In addition to therapy for the individual, Family Therapy may be offered. This provides a safe and non-judgemental space to explore feelings and the impact the eating disorder is having, not just for the individual but also for other family members. The therapist may work with the whole family, or in some sessions it may be helpful to work in focussed way with different combinations of family members, perhaps siblings together, perhaps just parents.

What is family therapy?

A helpful analogy is to think of family therapy as being like aromatherapy,  a form of therapy which uses pleasant scents to help you feel better. Family therapy is like that, engaging family members to help the person living with an eating disorder, to feel better about themselves , and to get better.

"Our child is fully recovered now, and I’m convinced that family therapy was an essential part of  recovery."

If you would like to find out more about Family Therapy, what is involved and to read reviews & messages of hope, you may find the AFT site helpful. The December 2014 edition of the AFT's 'Context' magazine focused on Eating Disorders, and includes professional and family perspectives, and recovery stories. 

Association for Family Therapy & Systemic Practice: 

Counselling for other family members:

When family therapy is not available, or not enough, other family members may seek support themselves. There are different types of providers, including NHS, charitable organisations, and private counsellors & therapists who may be qualified or not,  registered and unregistered. Some NHS GP surgeries can provide access to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) under the IAPT scheme (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). CBT is a form of 'talking therapy' which can be effective in mild depression and anxiety. If you, or someone else in the family, are feeling stressed, anxious and unable to cope it is now possible to self-refer for talking therapy under the IAPT scheme, in Essex. Forms are available from: Mid Essex IAPT, Tekhnicon House, Springwood Drive, Braintree, Essex CM7 2YN. Telephone 01376 308704.

Mid Essex Website:

"When my sister was ill I really struggled to cope. In the end I went to my GP and was offered CBT. I was able to do this over the phone. I found it really helped and I didn't need it for long. It made a real difference."

Other considerations: 

• NHS vs private care (How many sessions of therapy are available, consideration of costs, or if you have medical insurance then it is recommended to check the type of coverage and duration of cover, which may be limited for periods of hospitalisation.)

Choosing a therapist

When choosing a therapist /  counsellor, you may wish to consider whether the therapist / counsellor is a member of a recognised UK professional body. If so, you can check they are listed on the professional body website. A professional body such as UKCP, BACP may offer information such as:

  • Code of Professional Conduct
  • Standards of Education & Training
  • Code of Ethics
  • Continuing Professional Development
  • Whether the person is a therapist, trainee, or supervisor
  • How to make a complaint

 This link to BACP covers some factors to consider when choosing a therapist:

Useful Links

The information on this site is not a substitute for professional advice