What is Eating Disorder Counseling?
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.
Some eating disorders can be quite dangerous, sometimes resulting in death. Though all eating disorders can be dangerous, the following three disorders are particularly dangerous:
- Anorexia nervosa is the extreme restriction of food by a person in order to lose weight, which can lead to death from malnutrition. Anorexia can also lead to refeeding syndrome, an electrolyte imbalance that can lead to respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest, either of which can lead to death.
- Bulimia nervosa is binge eating that results in feelings of guilt, shame and/or remorse, feelings that normally cause a person to compensate by vomiting and/or over-exercising. Repeated vomiting can rupture the esophagus or cause an electrolyte imbalance that can damage the heart.
- Binge eating is eating excessively, which brings on feelings of self-loathing or guilt, though it doesn’t normally lead to vomiting. The person might compensate for the feelings of guilt by periodic dieting or fasting. Binge eating can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity or other ailments.
What Does an Eating Disorder Counselor Do?
An eating disorder counselor is a professional trained to treat eating disorders through psychological counseling. 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.
Where Does an Eating Disorder Counselor Work?
Eating disorder counselors typically work in the following environments:
- Eating disorder centers
- Mental health centers
- Treatment facilities
- Hospitals and clinics
- Individual and family services
- Residential care and nursing facilities
- Private practice
Why Do We Need Eating Disorder Counselors?
The causes of a compulsive eating disorder can be quite complex, often involving feelings like inadequacy, competitiveness, anxiety, the need to please other and low self-esteem. Medical doctors can help treat the physical symptoms of an eating disorder, but they aren’t trained to treat the eating disorder itself, because the root cause of the disorder lies in a psychological problem within the patient.
Eating disorder counselors can help patients get to the root of their problem and prescribe a treatment plan tailored to the particular needs of the patient. These counselors are trained in various treatments like dialectical behavior therapy, family therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and group therapy. They are sometimes also skilled in various alternative therapies.
What are the Educational Requirements to Become an Eating Disorder Counselor?
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.
What are the Work Experience Requirements for an Eating Disorder Counselor?
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.
What are the Requirements for Licensure/Certification?
Licensing requirements vary widely from state to state. Information related to state professional counselor licensing boards is available on American Counseling Association website.
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.
What Skills are Required an Eating Disorder Counselor?
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.
What is the Salary of an Eating Disorder Counselor?
According to Career Builder national average salary for an “Eating Disorder Specialist” is $50,344. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average yearly income for behavioral disorder counselors was around $41, 090. As the level of education for eating disorder counselors increased, so did salaries. Professionals working in general medical and surgical hospitals earned the average yearly salary of $49,090.
- Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Careers
- How to Become a Mental Health Psychologist
- How to Become a Behavioral Psychologist
- What Can You Do With a Behavioral Psychology Degree?
- What are the Requirements for Addiction Counselor Certification?
- What is the Difference Between Counseling and Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs?