Are you interested in joining the field as an eating disorder therapist? When asked “what advice do you have for someone new to the field?” experts we interviewed gave some great insight. Read on to learn more.
“I would suggest reading all you can about eating disorders and talking with those who struggled with their own eating disorders to understand the disorder. It’s a challenging career but it’s never monotonous and there’s always something new to learn. It’s definitely for those who love to learn. It’s very rewarding and at the end of the day you know you’ve helped someone!” – Hayley Miller, LPCC, LPC, RD, CDN
“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!
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
“My advice is to commit to doing your own work, both before you enter the field, and definitely while you are working in the field. It is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and will make you a more compassionate and effective therapist” – Dawn Delgado, LMFT, CEDS-S, EMDR-Certified
“There’s so much more training and supervision available now than when I was “growing up” in the field. If you can afford it, go to multidisciplinary conferences, specialty trainings, and get supervision across the disciplines. With little funds (but extraordinary value), you can learn a tremendous amount on the IFEDD listserv; I learn there every day.” – Leslie Schilling, MA, RDN, CSCS, CEDRD-S
“In my opinion, there is not any patient population more rewarding than taking care of patients with eating disorders. They are intelligent, driven, funny, quick witted, goal oriented, resilient, courageous. They are also hurting, confused, lost to their purpose or identity at times, and looking for support, understanding, and looking for those that will walk the journey with them. My advice is to be humble. These patients will teach you so much if you listen to them – if you are willing to admit you don’t have it all figured out. Along those same lines, ask questions and seek out seasoned clinicians in the field. Our learning should never be done. There is so much more to learn about eating disorders and the best treatment for them. We owe it to the field of eating disorders, and the patients, to knock down every door until we can provide optimal, effective treatment for every person.” – Brad Zehring, D.O.
“First, this work can be taxing, especially as we are constantly unpacking and unlearning our own weight stigma. Learning and practicing self-compassion will be crucial if you want to take care of yourself and contribute to this field. Second, build yourself up in community, both personally and professionally. This work can often feel like you are always going against the grain and when you are part of a community of peers that share your values, you realize you don’t have to do this work alone. And third, seek out clinical supervision. Even when it is not required to practice, clinical supervision is an important and necessary way to reflect, unlearn, learn, grow, specialize, and thrive.” – Haica Rosenfeld, PsyD, CEDS-S
“My best advice to someone new in the field is to build a community of likeminded peers that share your values for the work you do. So much of our clinical work is rooted in developing expertise and learning new ways to treat clients and different modalities, that the learning process can be incredibly isolating. Start with what brings you meaning and value first, and you will never lose sight of your purpose. Bring others along with you who share your visions and work together on making it happen.” – Meghan Watson, M.A. RP
“If a clinician finds that they have an interest in the field of eating disorders, I would advise initiating the process of iaedp™ Certification early on (CEDS, CEDRD, CEDCAT, or CEDRN): www.iaedp.com/certification-overview/. Certification promotes a standard of excellence within the field of eating disorders and a commitment to stay abreast of current developments in the field through continuing education.” – Signe Darpinian, LMFT, CEDS-S
“My advice is to get “in the trenches” so to speak. Even if it is low pay or seems below your educational level, get a job at a treatment center or ask to shadow therapists or RD’s for the day. My time spent working late night shifts at a housing program for clients helped me get a glimpse into what it feels like to “be at home” with a client and see them in their natural environment outside of a traditional therapy setting. It gave me an inside look into the anxiety that comes up while getting dressed, or the discomfort when diet commercials come on TV, or the difficulty in suppressing binge urges late at night. If I had not had that experience, I wouldn’t have been able to hear their struggles and see them firsthand. I highly recommend as much exposure as possible, as well as reading lots of autobiographies of recovered patients, to truly get into the mind and heart of someone in the recovery process.” – Rachel Coleman, M.A.
“Connect, connect and connect some more! Don’t be shy about introducing yourself to everyone in your area who works with eating disorders. Ask if there is a local networking group or even a supervision group you could join. Attend local and national conferences and network.
Ask for help. Work with eating disorders is challenging and expecting to do it alone is unwise. Even when you are more experienced you will do your best work when in a close-knit team with other professionals. When you are new to the field, it is best to have a mentor or supervisor in your discipline. (i.e. if you are a dietitian, look for an experienced RD to supervise you with your first cases.)
Stay connected. Experiment with which professional organizations support you best. If you are an RD, join at least the BHN Practice Group of ADA and IFEDD. Sign up for some e-mail listservs. They can be a place to turn with obscure questions and for referrals for your clients who move to other states.” – Molly Kellogg, LCSW, CEDRD