This study explored the use of spiritual counseling with patients with eating disorders (ED), with the goal of better understanding the relationship between spirituality and patient recovery. The researcher wanted to gain insight into how patients' spiritual practices and experiences may influence treatment processes and outcomes in eating disorder recovery. The researcher collected interview data at the Center for Change, a patient treatment center for women with eating disorders. Open-ended survey questions from forty seven respondents from a diverse range of clients with different religious and ethnic backgrounds, living in different national regions were qualitatively analyzed. The researcher also followed up with twelve of the women for in-depth interviews. Qualitative data analysis methods were used in an effort to extract patterns and themes from the interview transcripts. It was discovered that some patients did believe that spirituality played a large role in their treatment and recovery. There was a small minority who believed that spirituality and religion should be left out of treatment and recovery. Some of the participants believed that spiritual practices, interventions and experiences do facilitate eating disorder treatment and recovery. Among the spiritual components that helped were praying, spiritual meditation, and connection with nature. Some participants also suggested that religion and spirituality were intertwined with eating disorder etiology, citing that their experience of perfectionism related to their religious and spiritual community in which they felt the need to be thin. Some also suggested that religious fasting fed into their eating disorder mentality. Findings also suggested that eating disorders can undermine religion and spirituality. Some participants suggested that the eating disorders became their religion. Some participants suggested that their eating disorder may have been fueled by a single or ongoing religious experience or activity where bullying took place. Others believed that religion and spirituality negatively impacted treatment and recovery. The majority of participants believed that religion and spirituality had a positive impact on their healing. When used appropriately religion and spirituality in connection with eating disorder treatment and recovery can have a profound effect.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





spirituality, eating disorders, counseling, psychology, therapy, religion