Are you interested in joining the field as an eating disorder Registered Dietitian? When asked “what advice do you have for someone new to the field?” experts we interviewed gave the following advice:
“Go where the smart people are! In my dietetics program we barely grazed the topic of eating disorders. Knowing that is true of most training for dietitians and therapists, most of us enter the field with essentially no training. It is important that we seek this out ourselves, and thankfully there are SO many great places to learn: IFEDD, local iaedp chapters, webinars from many different treatment centers, and more. These resources were invaluable in helping me learn how to do this job and still teach me something new every time I show up. Also, if you go into private practice, office with people you genuinely adore and trust. This work can get stressful and lonely sometimes, so your support system needs to be close. Plus it’s just more fun that way.” – Rachael McBride MCN, RD/LD, CEDRD-S (she/her/hers)
“First and foremost, I would strongly advise anyone entering the field to explore if this field is a good fit. This isn’t meant to discourage but rather encourage exploration to determine which field or section of a field best aligns with your overall needs, goals, style, and expectations… Although a lot of dietitians might think that working in the eating disorder field feels intuitively like a good fit, it is absolutely critical to understand if you are ready to counsel clients who struggle with eating disorders or problems related to body image and exercise. Traditional dietetic education does not adequately prepare students or dietitians to counsel this specialized population, which can pose a significant problem especially in relation to counseling effectives or transference and countertransference…To best explore the field and adjust to the challenges present at every level, I would strongly recommend devoting time to networking and mentorship. Expanding and cultivating a network is essential for career success but will also increase chances of finding mentors… Considering that most dietitians receive minimal training in these areas, it remains vital to address this deficit through self-study, mentorship, and additional training. Personal experience with eating disorders or a handful of counseling sessions is simply not sufficient. Finding mentors in the realm of dietetics and therapy, supplemented with self-study through reading peer reviewed research and professional therapeutic manuals will help you develop a general foundation before seeking further specialization… Eating disorder work can be incredibly draining emotionally, physically and spiritually. It is incredibly meaningful to be someone’s support and witness during challenging times, and at the same time it requires considerable attention, energy and effort. If you are always pouring out your energy for others and rarely taking time to recharge and refill, you will increase your chances of burnout. When you first start, you might feel impervious and ready to take on the world, with endless optimistic energy. The reality of the work nonetheless is quite challenging and similar to intense exercise or study. All work and no rest will only result in decreased ability to perform, sickness or burnout. This will only negatively affect yourself and your ability to be effective or enjoy the work. Working with a therapist and mentor can help you develop an understanding of your energy levels, boundaries, provide room for processing difficult interactions and how to navigate the challenging work-life balance that typically challenges healthcare professionals. I could provide more tips beyond the ones mentioned above, but if you address these areas you will be off to a great start. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to reach out. I am always willing to help!”- Matt Stranberg MS RDN LDN CSSD CSCS
“If a student wants to get into this area I think you need to be prepared to do a lot of work. Including self work. I have listened to 100s of podcasts, read articles, joined ED FB groups to read and listen to sufferers to understand perspectives on treatment models. You need to learn skills that you don’t get in your RD degree. Working in a team with parents, partners, GP, psychologists – and most of the time you will know more than the rest of the team. You will become skilled in the medical, pharmacology, psychology, nutrition, therapy, exercise and genetics because it’s all so related to the food. You will be versed in the guidelines in all areas to help guide the rest of the treatment team with best practice. And you will be so passionate about it you won’t even care that you don’t get paid for 90% of the work you do.” – Victoria Schonwald RD
“Plant seeds – lots of them, then harvest what feels exactly right to you. Connect – with local practitioners who think like you do, into professional organizations, to what lights you up. Be open and curious. Share – once established, give away all that you’ve developed. There is enough of it all to go around. Embrace mentors in all fields to have access to as much as you can in all aspects of your career. Keep learning! Branch out into areas of interest that can help you create your own special niche. Move toward your passion with vigor and tenacity.” – Diana Dugan Richards RDN LDN
“Every job is an opportunity to learn – even if what you learn is you don’t want to work there anymore. In other words, take what you can from each job, nothing is beneath you, but know that when you go out on your own, you don’thave to do things the way others do. Remember the things that infuriate you so you don’t recreate those situations later. Take risks and try not to let your worry of what others think hold you back. Apply for any job that interests you, even if you don’t have the requested years of experience. Sometimes enthusiasm overrides those requirements. And please, please, please find someone you can talk to about your own issues, history and internal reactions. Whether it’s a professional supervisor, therapist, professional support group, or someone in your personal support system, it’s so crucial to your mental health to have a safe place to vent and explore your personal reactions to what you’re experiencing at work.” – Jessica Setnick MS, RD, CEDRD-S
“Be curious and read! Research is the foundation of evidence-based practice. If you learn how to read, think critically, discern and apply research, you are going to be a strong and respected clinician. These are skills learned largely in graduate school. These skills need to be practiced! So read, and read often; discuss research with colleagues; make it part of your commitment to being a lifelong learner. Read books and blogs in the consumer sphere also. Understand the lived experience and the diversity of the lived experience as much as you can. In addition, get as much specialty training as you can through webinars, podcasts, courses, conferences, clinical supervision, etc. Take your first job in an ED treatment center where you have lots of dietitian colleagues and a multidisciplinary treatment team at your side so that you can learn from their wisdom, experience and collaboration. This kind of on-the-job training and supervision is both invaluable and necessary to develop your clinical competence in this challenging niche of practice. Learn to be an effective listener. Your listening (and counseling) skills will endear you to your clients, allow you to build empathy, and cultivate effective and sustainable working relationships with your clients. Above all, practice consistent self-care. This work is demanding and hard but it is also incredibly rewarding.”- Paula Quatromoni DSc, RD
“I am so impressed with today’s new dietitians. They are tech oriented and have started respective, creative businesses incorporating technology. They are also focused on sustainable food and exude this philosophy in their teachings. They are also very insurance savvy. My advice would be, keep doing what you are doing- you are elevating our profession! Many RDs are, or are becoming, yoga teachers, with the interest in incorporating yoga into their work in order to take yoga to a therapeutic level. Yoga therapy is much different than yoga teacher. The majority of my yoga therapy workshop attendees are RDs. My co-presenters are a licensed mental health counselor, CEDS-S (iaedp) and yoga teacher/eating disorder recovery coach. Future trainings are online based with introductory and advanced trainings. My co-presenters are a licensed mental health counselor, CEDS-S (iaedp) and yoga teacher/eating disorder recovery coach. Future trainings are online based with introductory and advanced trainings. Although I loved running my own counseling business, I do like my current job at RCBM where I can do my job, focus solely on my patients, and then leave it at the end of the day. My advice here is allow yourself to create space for yourself. My career has been extremely rewarding and am looking forward to traveling parts of the world, that I have never seen, and of course experiencing the cultural cuisines!” Beverly Price RDN, MA, CEDRD-S, E-RYT, C-IAYT
“Network, find professionals in your area and reach out to them. Take them out to coffee, meet with them at their office, volunteer, attend chapter meetings. It’s a good way to see to see what your day to day life could look like and it’s always encouraging to have support and colleagues who share similar values.
- Attend conferences, read books, seek knowledge. There are so many wonderful resources out there, get your hands on them.
- Get a supervisor/mentor. Seeking support from a supervisor/mentor is invaluable and can really help you navigate cases by seeing them from a different perspective. Supervisors can provide a safe place to be able to discuss day to day challenges.
- Make mistakes and learn from them. No one is perfect, mistakes happen and when they do acknowledge them, discuss them in supervision, and move on.”
– Malak Saddy RD, LD, CEDRD
“A few things come to mind when I think of advice for individuals who want to work in the eating disorders field: First, if you have a history of an eating disorder / disordered eating yourself, make sure you have done the work for yourself first before jumping in to helping others. This boundary will not only protect your own mental health, but also your future clients. Second, if you know you want to work with individuals with eating disorders before/during your internship, do your best to apply for programs that either have a special eating disorders rotation, or where you will have the opportunity to choose an “area of specialty” and get some experience that way. Third, network! I landed my first job without having to fill out a job application for that position! I met one of my co-workers at an eating disorders training event, networked, and the rest was history. Fourth, seek supervision! Reba Sloan, RD/LDN, MPH, FAED has been my supervisor from day one, and her advice and expertise has been invaluable! Fifth, if you want to treat eating disorders (and not just dip your toe in intuitive eating and some disordered eating), I highly recommend working in a higher level of care if possible. It’s not to say that you can’t do it without the higher level of care experience (I did) but you learn so much and see so much in those higher levels, that it can really enhance your knowledge and skills as a practitioner.” – Emily Murray RD, LDN
“When I first started, I had no idea what supervision was. It is essentially hiring a more seasoned RD to advise you, support you, and help you learn how you show up in practice. Beyond helping you with a tough case, a good supervisor can share how to manage the emotional labor of this work and deal with your own feelings about who or what work you are doing. I recommend this to everyone whether it’s required or not. Supervision helped me not feel alone and supercharged my professional expertise and philosophy.
Learning about yourself and how to take care of yourself is essential. This goes beyond getting your nails done or taking a weekend away but being able to check in with yourself on a regular basis and meet your needs. Those needs might be rest, time away from work, making a difficult phone call, a tough decision in business, creating a policy with yourself, focusing on a specific type of client, or seeking support from a therapist.” – Erica Drewry CEDRD, RDN, LD
“My #1 piece of advice is to share your passion and work interests with others. Talk about what you aspire to do, network with other professionals (both those in your field of choice and those outside of the field), perhaps volunteer your time or shadow a professional to gain experience in your area of interest. For some, this means stepping out of their comfort zone. Believe in yourself and that you can achieve anything.”
– Ursula Ridens RDN
Check out these experts’ full interviews at https://eatingdisorderjobs.com/category/advice-from-experts/ and search the right column for their name.