Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Recovered Professionals Exploring Eating Disorder Recovery: A Qualitative Investigation of Meaning

  • Crystal G. Bowlby
  • Tamara L. Anderson
  • M. Elizabeth Lewis Hall
  • Michele M. Willingham
Original Paper


While an emerging subset of literature has revealed that therapists with eating disorder histories often seek out positions in the field of eating disorders, there has been minimal investigation regarding what these clinicians have learned as a result of their eating disorder struggle. In this study we examine how recovery is viewed among professionals in the clinical treatment field of eating disorders with a personal history of an eating disorder. We used a phenomenological design and conducted interviews with 13 women participants representing all geographical areas of the United States. Qualitative analysis of interviews resulted in six themes regarding the essential characteristics of the recovery process (it is nonlinear, it is comprehensive, it involves changing attitudes toward the self, it requires de-identification with the illness, developing a sense of purpose, and acquiring meaningful relationships). These themes broaden the conceptualization of recovery beyond the minimal criteria of abstinence from behavioral symptomatology, weight restoration, and cessation of obsessional thinking, and suggest that long-term recovery requires more comprehensive changes, involving identity, meaning, and purpose in life.


Eating disorders Recovery Interviews Semi-structured Phenomenology 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Crystal G. Bowlby
    • 1
  • Tamara L. Anderson
    • 1
  • M. Elizabeth Lewis Hall
    • 1
  • Michele M. Willingham
    • 2
  1. 1.Biola UniversityLa MiradaUSA
  2. 2.Counseling and Psychological ServicesCalifornia State Polytechnic University, PomonaPomonaUSA

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