How Befriending Helps…

Having an eating disorder can feel very isolating at times.

You might be surrounded by friends and family who want to do what they can to support you, but still feel alone, misunderstood and unsupported. It can feel isolating, even lonely, when you don’t fit the stereotypical perception of ‘someone-with-an-eating-disorder’. All of this feeds into different feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment about your diagnosis or struggle.

Recovery from an eating disorder often involves communication. There is a lot of talking, explaining and sharing, as well as navigating difficult situations and interactions. It can be exhausting trying to communicate those feelings and thoughts to your friends and family, especially when they don’t fully understand those struggles and have no personal experience of living with an eating disorder. It can increase those feelings of loneliness and isolation.

How Befriending Helps…

Befriending is our multi-award winning 6-to-9-month weekly support programme, recognised by NHS England’s National Integrated Personal Commissioning Team, where we match a service user with one of our highly trained and supervised befrienders. It is one of our most beloved services, available to anyone affected by an eating disorder (also supporting carers’, families and friends of anyone struggling with an eating disorder.)

Many of our Befrienders have a lived experience, with an empathetic and knowledgeable approach to the challenges you are facing at the moment. They ‘get it’ and understand the intensity of an eating disorder, whether you yourself are struggling or you’re caring for a loved one. The service has been, and continues to be, a lifeline during those difficult times.

Who is this service for?

Our befriending service is open to anyone affected by an eating disorder or eating difficulties, and also recognises the role of loved ones, parents and carers in recovery from an eating disorder. Whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder or difficulties yourself, or supporting a loved one through their recovery, our befrienders are here to help.

Here are some examples of how this service could help…

… Supporting parents or carers who are looking for support from another parent with lived experience whilst their child receives direct support from our own services, or in one of our local NHS eating disorders services,

… Supporting partners who are seeking that assurance through our ‘expert by experience’ coaching whilst they provide self-care to their life partner,

… Supporting a young person who accepts that a 6-to-9-month weekly peer relationship will help to keep them focused on their own recovery, giving them the opportunity to learn from someone who has been there themselves and can utilise that experience and apply similar strategies for staying focused on their care plan and journey.

To find out if our befriending service can support you, contact us at

How does it work?

Befriending is offered by a range of modalities including, email twice a week, video clinic once a week or telephone. Together with your befriender you will decide on dates and times that they can contact you for six to nine months, giving you confidence that no matter how many times you choose to keep in touch as a befriendee, your befriender will respond and keep in touch with you the same time every week.

It is a safe and confidential space. Your befriender will help encourage and support you, building up your confidence and help you to make positive changes towards recovery.

What do our service users think?

“Befriending has helped me to talk about it with someone, it helps me feel listened to. I like that is easy to do with no pressure, and no one has ever asked me for my BMI, which is nice. My befriender has been really helpful and understanding. She never pressures me to do or say anything and is always respectful.”

“Thanks to the First Steps ED ‘Befriending’ service I feel as though I am able to express myself to people in my life much better, and I understand my thoughts better. I think if you’re still tentative about recovery, this service is a very easy and accessible one. I had such a good, lovely befriender.”

“I get on so well with my Befriender and find it really easy to write to her…My attitude towards food is getting better and I am slowly trying to take the control back of deciding what to eat and when. I know it is a slow process and there is no miracle cure I have had a befriender for over 6 months now and it is really working for me.”

“I feel like my Befriender truly understood my experiences.  Also, I was able to steer the direction of the emails and talk about things I wanted to talk about, which was sometimes my mental health, which was really helpful.”

“It’s a non-judgemental service that allows me to talk about any frustrations, difficulties and achievements. I feel supported and listened to. Thank you so much first steps for supporting me overcome an eating disorder, it has changed my life and I now look forward to my future.”

If nothing else, befriending will help you feel less alone in how you are feeling. It is a service which will continually offer hope and guidance as you manage your own recovery, or whilst you support a loved one. Perhaps the best testament to this service is from our returning service users who, following a sustained recovery in their eating disorder for over 2 years, choose to join our befriending team and give back to new service users and carers just starting out on their own journey.

Learn more about our services here!

Contributed by Lucy Robinson

Fundraising, Marketing and Communications Lead