How to Become an Eating Disorder Counselor

The niche of eating disorder counseling is a growing area of expertise. Eating disorder counseling deals with scores of teenage and adolescent individuals who struggle with maladaptive eating patterns. Often those who struggle with eating disorders use food as a means of controlling their environments. The goal of those within the field of eating disorder counseling is to ensure that all of their patients eventually adopt healthy eating patterns and lifestyles.

Sadly, the niche of eating disorder counseling is growing. Although a large percentage of the individuals in treatment are teenage and adolescent females, men do struggle with eating disorders as well. Eating disorder counselors are charged with the unique responsibility of saving lives through therapeutic intervention. Although a large number of patients do recover and go on to lead successful and rewarding lives, a small percentage do die each year as a result of their struggles with eating disorders.

Job Duties

Eating disorder counselors utilize a variety of approaches in order to curb maladaptive behavioral patterns involving food. Often, as an eating disorder counselor, you may be asked to treat patients suffering from morbid obesity, anorexia, and/or bulimia. You may be required to conduct family therapy, in order to discover the roots of whatever ails your patients. Some of the modalities of treatment include psychodynamic therapy, DBT therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and sensorimotor therapy. Eating disorder counselors work with a variety of other professionals ranging from dieticians to psychiatrists in order to ensure the highest level of possible care for their patients. As a eating disorder counselor, you make work in either in-patient or out-patient settings. You may also provide psychological services to individuals who are in serious physical risk, due to their illnesses. You will be required to implement and create a treatment plan for each patient.

Educational Requirements

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, those interested in becoming eating disorder counselors, must obtain a minimum of a master’s degree in clinical or counseling psychology. It is highly recommended that professionals eventually also earn a doctoral degree.  In order to successfully gain admission to graduate school, experts recommend that you take both the general and psychology GRE examinations. Students can also study psychoanalytic therapy, body-image, personality, family therapy, and group dynamics. In order to earn a doctoral degree in the field of eating disorder counseling, students must successfully complete a dissertation.

Work Experience Requirements

In order to become an eating disorder counselor, you must successfully complete a clinical internship. During a supervised internship, aspiring clinicians will work directly with those suffering from eating disorders. Interns often work in low-cost clinics, and in state hospitals. Internships can also be conducted under the license of a professional already engaged in private practice. This work experience will include developing treatment plans for those suffering from eating disorders. Interns will often attend meetings with the clinical treatment team, and make vitally important decisions about the care of their patients. Interns will also be required to help identify any non-compliance within clinical settings. In additional to direct involvement in the treatment and care of patients, internships also require the development of record-keeping skills.

Licensure

Licensing requirements vary widely from state to state. The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals offers a certification, however this certificate is not generally required to work in the field. Instead, eating disorder counselors must generally meet the same requirements for licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed clinical psychologists- depending on their level of educational achievement.

Salary

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average yearly income for eating disorder counselors was around $72, 540. As the level of education for eating disorder counselors increased, so did salaries.

Personal Skills

Eating disorder counselors must be kind, empathetic, compassionate, parental, and firm. They must have a good understanding of healthy boundaries, as well as advanced working knowledge of various clinical modalities. Eating disorder counselors must be great problem-solvers, have good critical thinking skills, and excellent deductive reasoning abilities. As an eating disorder counselor, you must be able to interpret patient behaviors, and must be able to understand the underlying symbolism of a variety of behaviors. Eating disorder counselors should be able to maintain a healthy body weight, and be free of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and any personality disorders. In order to be a successful eating disorder counselor, you should be persuasive, have good communication skills, and be extremely patient.

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