Who is an eating disorder therapist going to be? Is she a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, or some other sort of expert? Where does her training come from? Could “he” be a “she?”
Fear and worry about eating disorder treatment is partly to do with fear of the unknown, especially unknown people. A lot of people with eating disorders suffer from anxiety or have a panic disorder which augments this fear. Prospective clients need to know what to expect when they enter a facility so they can alleviate some of that anxiety.
Read Online Profiles
A number of centers are large and established enough to run websites. Some of those websites post pictures and profiles of counselors, nutritionists, therapists, psychiatrists, founders, and other professionals. Here one can put a name to a face so that on admission day at least one unknown is removed.
A client knows what that person looks like, but also what qualifies her to look after people with eating disorders. Read about how many years she has been working in this field, where she went to school, and what makes her passionate about this topic.
In some instances, profiles show that a person suffered from an eating disorder herself and turned her experience into a positive career direction. This should give a person hope that she, too, can overcome her disordered eating habits. It is considered an advantage when a professional understands personally what a client is going through.
Notice that men and women suffer from eating disorders. A therapist could be a man or a woman. If this matters to a client, she should do some careful research to establish which center is able to provide female staff only.
A male with an eating disorder can also find out where he is likely to be working with a male therapist. Men are also touched by eating disorders when a wife or child is affected by one.
Different Types of Therapists
When you approach the idea of entering rehab for eating disorders as a resident or outpatient, you will notice that many people take part in enabling your recovery. These include at least three types of therapists: individual, group, and family-focused. The same person might lead all of these meetings or it could be taken in rotation.
Also, think about what you mean by “therapist.” The word is used interchangeably with terms like “psychotherapist,” “nutritionist,” “psychologist,” and “psychiatrist” by individuals who do not know how to distinguish them all. Each of these people has been educated a little bit differently.
A psychiatrist is a doctor. She is able to diagnose mental illness and to prescribe medication if medicine is likely to be helpful.
A psychologist is similar but cannot prescribe drugs.
A psychotherapist explores non-medical ways of handling mental health problems. In an eating disorder center, these problems are the ones caused or exacerbated by an eating disorder.
Nutritionists focus on the role of food in overall health. They point out the links connecting anxious feelings and depressive times with eating habits. For example, fatty and low-value foods (chips, popcorn, candy, fried foods) often make a mental health problem worse.
Eating well and adding supplements could lift a person’s mood enough for him to no longer suffer clinical episodes.
Mental illness is a significant part of an eating disorder. If a person did not have one before she developed symptoms of binge eating, obsessive compulsive eating, anorexia, or bulimia, then she is probably suffering from one today.
- Depression or anxiety are the two most common.
- Bipolar contributes to eating problems.
- OCD is another disorder which affects the way a person regards food.
Perspectives on the respective roles of drugs and counseling in a therapeutic setting differ. A number of professionals regard medication as worrying: they would rather avoid prescribing anything. Their reason is the fear that an addictive personality is more likely to become dependent on these drugs if they have the potential to be addictive.
There are always exceptions, however. For example, some people are too ill to handle the teaching they will encounter unless they take some kind of medication, even if only temporarily, so they are stable enough to lay a foundation for the education that is coming. Therapists are not able to run groups or organize personal therapy if their clients are distracted and require medical attention.
CBT is a behavioral therapy lauded by many practitioners for its non-medical effects on the brain. An eating disorder therapist will probably use this to show her client the difference between healthy thinking and unhealthy thinking. Many clients successfully beat disordered eating habits by learning how to view their situations from a more realistic perspective.
Another therapeutic approach used by professionals is teaching men and women to view their bodies realistically. They learn about the role of the media in confusing the notion of a healthy body. The clothing industry makes the problem worse with its skimpy fashions.
Therapists, in this case, are also educators. These specialists use their knowledge of the causes and effects of disordered eating to develop workshops for patients and families.
An Eating Disorder Specialist
Eating disorder specialists are therapists who have devoted their careers to treating adults and/or adolescents with eating problems. After finishing respective degrees in social work, counseling, or psychiatry, they continued with course work to understand the complex interplay between food-related obsessions, social issues, and mental illness. One does not become an expert overnight. Clients want to work these individuals, not generalists who tackle everything.