And finally, our most common field of Eating Disorders, our private practice ED experts!
“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.
“Stay open to each clinical experience as a teaching moment to learn more about yourself and others. As a young RD, I often found the daily staff hospital routine so mundane and I couldn’t wait to “clock out” and stop going through the motions of bedside assessments and writing orders that were often ignored. But now I cherish every memory of encouraging patients in their suffering and how much I learned about the human body, Spirit, and medical conditions at the acute level. This builds a foundation of clinical confidence in outpatient care that no certification or class can provide. In private practice and business, the sky is the limit, if you see a need then there is a good chance the universe has picked you to fill it!! Connect with mentors in the field, attend all the CE events you can, get certification in the areas of your passion, and network, get rooted & build bridges with other providers.”- Jean Sullivan RDN, LD
“Imposter Syndrome is very real. It is always good to balance that out with reminding yourself what you know and what you don’t while making sure to stick within your scope of practice. One of the things that has helped me the most is attending webinars, reading books, and just getting my hands on any ED-related material I can. This field is challenging and yet so rewarding. Always keep in mind the nature of eating disorders … progress in recovery usually has nothing to do with you as a clinician. Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself of that!” – Clair El-Jor MSc, LD
“My best advice to someone new in the field is to always be open to listening and learning. No matter how many years of education you’ve accumulated, it’s always important to prioritize your patient’s lived experience over your own textbook knowledge. Build a supportive circle of peers around you who share your same core values and beliefs. This work can be draining and isolating. It’s important to take care of yourself, set boundaries and talk to someone who understands what you’re struggling with when the going gets tough. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Trust your gut, be your own person, challenge the status quo and go on and change the world. You can do it!”- Marie Elena Bitar MPH, RD
“If you want to work in the eating disorder space you first need to reevaluate your food beliefs and if they are rooted in fatphobia or weight stigma. We live in a society drenched in diet culture, it is so important that any professional in this space is able to extract diet ingrained thoughts so that they can help their clients recover fully”- Safiyya Suleman RDN
“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
“Stick with it! Becoming a dietitian isn’t easy and I wanted to quit SO many times (and I’m not a quitter, it was just that intense). When you are feeling like it’s hard remember your why and try to take baby steps towards your goals” – Jessica Jones MS, RD, CDE
“Hang out with dietitians that inspire you! Don’t be afraid to say hi on social media, introduce yourself at conferences, and learn from dietitians with supervision and joining groups/memberships/courses. We need more dietitian business owners that specialize in eating disorders, so don’t get discouraged with the current system that does not provide enough education, training, and support! Seek out your own opportunities to truly create the career (and life!) that you want to have.” – Jennifer McGurk RDN, CDN, CEDRD-S
“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
“Shadow, observe & talk to dietitians and mental health therapists who are working in the eating disorder field. Ask questions about their day-to-day work; what they love and what they wish they could change. Learn as much as possible by listening to podcasts & webinars, reading books & journal articles, and attending conferences if feasible. Many trainings are now offered virtually which helps keep the cost down; you can share the cost with a colleague if CEUs aren’t an issue. Find a mentor or supervisor to help you with challenging patient/client situations- this is invaluable. Talk to Eating disorder professionals who are in a completely different setting than you may see yourself in. For example, if you think you want to work at the residential level, talk to a researcher and an outpatient dietitian too. The RDs I’ve trained and/or mentored over the years always have one thing in common: passion. When passion is present, the rest will fall into place. You may know immediately that you have a strong desire to help those with eating disorders, but there is a good possibility you may not discover how exactly to use that passion for a number of years to come; be patient. Be open to new ideas and never stop learning!”- Laurie Dunham MS, RD, LD, CEDRD-S
“Find your specialty and run with it! Don’t be afraid to take a bunch of jobs to find your niche and then use your innate skill set to hone your place within a dietetics specialty area. You will become competent and confident in everything that you do – just be patient with yourself as the steep learning curve takes place.”- Stefanie Ginsburg RD, CEDRD
“I would encourage someone new to the field to apply to their dream job! Don’t feel like you have to wait to get experience to at least apply for the job! I strongly believe that passion precedes performance and, if you are passionate about something, you can be trained and develop a skill set for it. The most intelligent people, if lacking passion for the field, will not do well in the treatment of eating disorders.I’d also encourage you to get involved in professional organizations within your area to network and learn as much as possible. IFEDD and iaedp are great organizations to look into and both have local chapters. Continuously learn! Read books, listen to podcasts and shadow mentors. Don’t stop learning. And remember that eating disorders are a tough, yet incredibly rewarding field. You do not have to have it all figured out, just constantly be willing to show up, listen and learn.”- Kristin Williams RDN, LD, CEDRD
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Someone told me that a dietitian couldn’t make an impact working with anti-trafficking work and I have. I have co-lead a training with Homeland Security, worked alongside the FBI and have been a board member of an anti-trafficking organization. Just because it isn’t conventional doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”- Whitney Trotter MS RDN/LDN BSN RN RYT
“Be gentle with yourself. I know for myself the drive can be strong to want to fix everyone and take their pain away, and this can create intense and unrealistic pressure on myself (and them!). Focus on what you can control and on being the most caring, authentic, competent provider you can be, and then know that this is also everyone’s own journey. Find ways of loving the work for the connections it allows you to make with amazing individuals and for how neat it is to be able to be a part of their journeys, whatever path it takes.”- Sarah Rzemieniak
“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
“It’s okay if you aren’t sure you want to work with eating disorders while you’re still in school. It’s okay if you don’t land a job working with eating disorders right out of your internship. There are so many other ways to gain information and experience including courses, workshops, conferences, webinars, and supervision that happen after your schooling. And even if you start out in a more traditional clinical job, that absolutely helps to prepare you for doing more specialized eating disorder work down the line. Every experience teaches us something!”- Christina Frangione MS, RD, CDN, RYT
“Value your relationships with everyone in your professional life from clients, to parents to fellow clinicians. Treat absolutely everyone whether they are above you or below with thoughtful respect. Authentically seek to support others even if it does not seem to monetarily benefit you in the moment. The more you can look out for other people in this field, the more bridges you will build and the more successful you will be.”- Ruth Roddy LPC
“Be open minded to all job opportunities and never say no to any job opportunity as you never know that you may end up liking another area of dietetics and develop a specialty. This can result in also becoming more well rounded in the field. I am so thankful that I was a clinical dietitian as it has helped me see many other types of clients in my practice, write a book that includes a significant amount of medical understanding and be used as an expert by other clinicians and media outlets.”- Robyn L. Goldberg RDN, CEDRD-S
“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
“My advice for anyone new in the field is to be a sponge, and be a student for life. Immerse yourself in as much information as you can- podcasts, mentorship, books, peers doing the same work as you. Be open and vulnerable to all the things you don’t know, and that you can only learn by listening to your clients’ experiences and by those who have been in the field longer than you. At the same time, stay rooted in your own internal wisdom and intuition. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know, and find out later.” – Hannah Turnbull, RDN
“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
“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 training, 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
“I would recommend attending the amazing webinars, conferences and presentations that the field offers. I learned so much from these experiences! They allowed me to meet and brainstorm with wonderful professionals. Since the field is always changing and growing, I have found being a part of local and global professional networks is essential to expanding your knowledge. The IFEDD listserv in particular is immensely valuable! In addition, resources through the International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP), Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – Behavioral Health Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (AND-BHN DPG), and the National Association of Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). There are also a plethora of amazing websites, books, podcasts, and social media accounts that provide valuable information to support your clients (There are too many to list but feel free to email if you’d like recommendations: [email protected]). In summary, get involved in the field, meet other professionals and stay connected via organizations, listservs and social media. We all learn from and support one another!” – Diana Wright MS, RD, CEDRD
“I would tell any new therapist that it takes time to feel comfortable and to be okay with asking for help. No one is perfect and we all need mentors, colleagues and supervisors to help us along the way. I would say to be persistent in pursuing what you want. I would also say that social work and counseling is very emotionally draining if you aren’t taking care of yourself. As practitioners, we must model good self care and self love by putting our needs first.”- Catie Lynch LCSW
“a) Experiment with different nutrition jobs. I found my way to eating disorder treatment through trial and error. That’s how I learned which career excited me and was the best fit for my needs and skill set. How can a young person know which job is right for them until they are out in the field?
b) Network. Go to events and talk to people. I learned about every one of my jobs through connections I had made at various dietetic association meetings.
c) Have supervision if you do direct patient care. Particularly with patients who suffer from eating disorders, make sure you have guidance. Supervision was not readily available when I first started seeing patients. I had to rely on wisdom from the therapists who were working with my patients. Nowadays, supervision is a prerequisite to becoming certified as an eating disorder specialist.”- Erica Leon MS, RDN, CEDRD
“Be ready to examine your own thoughts and beliefs about the world. Being effective in the world of eating disorders means that you have to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”. Examining how you interact with and participate in diet culture is the first step.”- Whitney Russell MS, LPC-S, CEDS-S
“Start supervision as soon as you know you are interested in pursuing a career in eating disorders (and never stop! Peer supervision is invaluable throughout your career). If you have struggled with an eating disorder or disordered eating, ensure that you’ve worked through issues you have had about food, weight, and exercise so you are strong for your client. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate – Always work with a therapist and medical provider for diagnosed eating disorders.” – Beth Harrel MS, RD, LD, CEDRD-S
“Seek out supervision! I am very grateful for the supervision I received, as it has not only helped me therapeutically, it has greatly impacted the well-being of my clients. Supervision has shaped me to the dietitian I am today. Thank you Jessica Setnick for being my fearless leader and supervisor!”– Kayla Jessop RDN, CDN, CEDRD-S
“Get involved. Volunteer for local or national organizations that speak to you. The more people you meet the better your connections to getting your dream job. You will likely have more than one job that doesn’t suit your dreams. That is what I hope for you. Those are the jobs where you will learn about yourself, your tenacity, your spirit. You will learn about you. When at a conference, ask a question to the speaker, even if there are 250 people in the room. Start it with “Hi, I am (fill in your name) from (city, state).” You will stand out from the crowd. Get a supervisor if you are working with or want to work with clients who have eating disorders.- Sarah Gleason RD, LD, CEDRD
“If you are trying to get into the field, but continue to find road blocks due to lack of experience, try to get experience in non-employment avenues. Reach out to local eating disorder dietitians and see if they have any part-time, volunteer, or shadowing opportunities. Become a member of the local and/or national eating disorder organizations such as IFEDD(international federation of eating disorder dietitians) and iaedp (international association of eating disorder professionals) and make connections with those currently in the field. Let everyone who will listen know that you are looking to get into the field. Paid experience is not the only experience of value. If you are new to the field, learn as much as you can and never assume you know enough about the treatment of eating disorders. Attend any and every educational opportunity about eating disorders even if it is not specifically geared towards dietitians. Make sure you are receiving adequate supervision and if you are not seek it out from a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian Supervisor. “- Casey Bonano RD, LD, CEDRD
“If you are new to the field, find a supervisor or mentor who will help you better understand how to help someone with an eating disorder. If you do not understand the thought process of someone struggling with an eating disorder, you can do more harm than good.”- Eileen Stellefson Myers MPH, RDN, LDN, CEDRD, FAND
“Invest all that you are able into attending conferences, reading books, and in clinical supervision. We need more dietitians in the field but in order to thrive you must approach your role far differently than how you were initially trained in dietetics. It takes a substantial amount of ongoing training in psychology and counseling strategies to thrive in this field. In the current climate of social media, it is easy to take short cuts by getting your education on instagram. Don’t let this be you! Dive deep and you will soar!”– Marci Evans MS, CEDRD-S, LDN, cPT
“Learn and practice extraordinary self care. Practicing self-care requires commitment and intention. Make sure that you schedule some daily self care to help you bring your best self to work and that you have energy to take to your personal life. Self care also includes asking for help, especially if you are in private practice and/or working with clients with eating disorders. Make sure that you put key people in place in your life to help you grow personally and professionally. Doing this will help prevent you from burning out. It will help you counsel your clients better and also make your counseling much more authentic, powerful and inspirational.”- Rebecca Bitzer MS, RD, LD, CEDRD
“Seek out clinical supervision from another RD, even though it’s not required to practice. The work we do is challenging and ever changing. With clinical supervision, you don’t feel as alone. You can learn and grow in your counseling skills and learn more about yourself as a clinician. It’s invaluable.”- Anna Lutz MPH, RD, LDN, CEDRD-S
“Ask questions and learn from a diverse set of professional peers within your scope. Eating disorders are an extremely complicated mental (and physical) illness. In doing this work, it’s extremely important for us to ask questions to other eating disorder dietitians, other members of the treatment team, and our clients. One of my favorite mantras to use is “be curious.” I remember this both in and out of session. It’s so important for us to get the biggest picture of what it’s like for our clients. But, this can prove to be difficult if you don’t ask questions because all of us come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. And lastly, I would not be able to do this work if it weren’t for other eating disorder dietitians guiding me. I would 100% recommend to participate in (at least) monthly supervision with a dietitian you trust.”- Alex Raymond RDN, LDN
“Educate yourself about to best help sports-active people who struggle with finding the right balance of food and exercise. Read books about compulsive exercisers, listen to webinars and podcasts on eating disorders (visit www.EDCatalogue.com), and attend lots of conferences that address both eating disorders and sports nutrition.”- Nancy Clark MS, RD, CSSD
“Attend as many conferences, seminars, webinars…anything about eating disorders that is out there. Learn as much as you can about the illness so you are fully equipped to deal with this very difficult population. Also, take good care of yourself so you can take care of others. Practice self care so that you avoid developing burnout and compassion fatigue. Set good boundaries at work and in your personal life – to protect yourself. Remember: people with eating disorders are in pain. Their coping mechanism is food (or lack of) and weight. Approach every single client with compassion and empathy and leave behind the judgment and shame.” – Caryn Honig MEd, RD, LD
“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 Kellog LCSW, CEDRD
Check out these experts’ full interviews at https://eatingdisorderjobs.com/category/advice-from-experts/ and search the right column for their name.