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Treating the Eating Disorder Self
A Comprehensive Model for the Social Work Therapist
Mary Anne Cohen
ISBN: 978-0-87101-550-1. 2020. Item #5501. 252 pages.
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"Healing an emotional eating problem is about helping our clients cultivate a deeply rich relationship with their inner self—their hunger for food and their hunger for life."

Mary Anne Cohen, LCSW, director of the New York Center for Eating Disorders, brings over 40 years of experience working with clients struggling with an eating disorder. In this engaging and compassionate book, Cohen teaches therapists how to fearlessly reach out to the heart and humanity of each client, illustrating how the therapist–client relationship—with its sharing of tears and laughter—makes treatment a deeply healing experience.

Integrating over 200 case examples, Cohen explores the two worlds of the binge eater, bulimic, and anorexic: the inner and the outer. In part 1, she delves into the inner world of frozen grief, depression, abuse, and early attachment. She presents attachment theory, how to conduct an eating disorder evaluation, how to blend psychotherapy and cognitive–behavioral strategies, the role of medications, and the ingredients needed for a healing therapeutic relationship. In part 2, she demonstrates how clinicians can develop multicultural, gender, and social media competency. Literacy in these three areas brings us a deeper understanding of the impact that this outer world has on the eating disorder patient and how to intervene to modify the harmful effects.

Every person’s eating disorder is as unique as a fingerprint, and there is no "one size fits all" approach to healing. The goal for the social work therapist is to create an individualized and comprehensive treatment approach in collaboration with clients that will help them break the chains of emotional eating and body image distress.

This is a book about hope. Hope that we can become more empathically attuned to our clients, hope that they can become more trustworthy of human relationships to heal their inner selves, and hope that our clients can ultimately declare peace with emotional eating.

Part 1: The Inner World of the Emotional Eater

Chapter 1: When Trusting Food Is Safer than Trusting People

Chapter 2: Conducting an Eating Disorder Assessment: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How?

Chapter 3: Treatment Part 1: Awareness Is the First Step

Chapter 4: Treatment Part 2: Action Strategies

Chapter 5: Medications and the Eating Disorder Client

Chapter 6: The Therapeutic Relationship: Cultivating Hope and Connection

Part 2: Multicultural Perspectives, Gender Competency, and the Impact of Social Media in Eating Disorder Treatment

Chapter 7: A Multicultural Perspective on Eating Disorders

Chapter 8: Gender, Sexual Identity, and Eating Disorders: What’s the Connection?

Chapter 9: The World of Social Media, Eating Disorders, and "Selfie-Esteem"


Appendix A: The Diagnoses of Eating Disorders
Appendix B: Resources
About the Author
Mary Anne Cohen, LCSW, BCD, is a social work therapist and has been a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) since 1972. She has served as the director of the New York Center for Eating Disorders since founding the center in 1982. She has treated hundreds of people with a wide range of eating disorders, supervises social work therapists, and has written two internationally acclaimed books on this topic: French Toast for Breakfast: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating and Lasagna for Lunch: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating.

Cohen offers professional training workshops to social workers on eating disorders and body image at the NASW Addictions Institute, the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work (Metropolitan, Staten Island, and Rockland County chapters), and the New York University School of Social Work and provides trainings for social workers in hospitals, eating disorder treatment centers, and alcoholism facilities.

She has been the professional book reviewer for (Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center) since 2014. She created a continuing education training webinar for social workers and mental health professionals, "Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating," for, and both her books have been turned into continuing education courses for mental health professionals (see Cohen also broadcast a weekly radio show for three years on the topic of eating disorders on AM and FM radio stations to New York City and the tristate area, interviewing experts in the field throughout the United States.
It may appear incongruous to describe a book so thorough, useful, and full of client stories as charming, but that descriptor is the one that kept coming back to me.

This book’s charm lies in the author’s ability to help us understand the dynamics of eating disorders and in her ability to, at the same time, give us a peek inside the lives, hopes, dreams, and horrors of the lives of her patients.

It’s also an exceedingly thorough volume, providing not only therapeutic techniques, but also much needed information regarding the multi-cultural aspects of eating disorders, a perspective on gender and sexual identity, and an examination of social media and the place it sometimes holds in this “skinny or die” culture. The detailed attention to so many elements of life makes this such a richly rewarding read.

Nancy Keeton, PhD, LCSW
Clinical Diplomate, Professor of Social Work
Brescia University, Owensboro, Kentucky

Read Dr. Keeton’s full review here.


Mary Anne is a great resource to us all, both experienced clinicians and those entering the field. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, weaving clinical case examples and her own personal history. She brings "life" to the book and keeps readers engaged. What I appreciate most is Mary Anne’s emphasis on educating the reader on developing a rich understanding of their client, not just a focus on behavioral intervention.

Ann Biasetti, PhD, LCSWR, C-IAYT
Author and clinical psychotherapist, Saratoga Springs, NY

Click here to hear an interview with the book’s author, Mary Anne Cohen, on the NASW Social Work Talks podcast!