Eating disorders are difficult mental health illnesses to treat. Given how dangerous eating disorders can be, it’s important for healthcare professionals to use the safest and most effective methods. This is why there’s a huge need for credential standards for eating disorder clinicians!
Why Are Credential Standards Important for Eating Disorder Clinicians?
Credential standards for eating disorder therapists and dietitians are important because they can make treatment safer and more effective for clients . The lack of universal agreement on what skills and knowledge clinicians need to provide the best care creates barriers to treatment.
Without these standards, clinicians may not feel capable of treating people with eating disorders. This may be why it is so difficult for clients and loved ones to find effective treatment .
This problem appears to be worldwide. Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED) have stepped forward to try and solve this problem. ANZAED has created standards that all mental health professionals and dietitians should stick to when treating eating disorders.
ANZAED’s Eating Disorders Credential Standards
ANZAED’s has come up with credential standards for clinicians [2,3]. These standards outline how clinicians should go about different aspects of the treatment process. These guidelines include:
Coordination of Services
Mental health clinicians should communicate with other members of the treatment team and know each member’s role. Clinicians should stick to providing services that are consistent with their training. Clinicians should also communicate treatment goals to client and include family members in the treatment process when appropriate.
Create a Positive Therapeutic Relationship
Mental health professionals should be able to create a relationship with their clients that helps support positive change. This includes making sure the client feels heard, respected, and understands how the therapist is working to support their treatment goals.
Understand Levels of Care
It’s important that clinicians understand the levels of care for eating disorders. This knowledge helps clinicians recommend and provide the appropriate care depending on how severe someone’s eating disorder is.
Assessment & Diagnosis
Eating disorder providers should know how to conduct mental health assessments in order to appropriately diagnose. This includes more than knowing how to identify eating disorder behaviors. Clinicians should also know how to identify risk factors that contribute to the disorder and the individual’s strengths that can support them through treatment.
As mentioned earlier, clinicians should know the most effective treatment approaches. There are evidence-based approaches that clinicians should be aware of and know how to use.
Manage Co-occurring Conditions
“Co-occurring” means that someone has two conditions at one time. This is common in people with eating disorders. For example, someone with an eating disorder may also be dealing with anxiety or trauma.
However, co-occurring disorders could also include physical conditions like diabetes. Clinicians should know how to manage co-occurring disorders. This knowledge is important since unresolved conditions can prevent someone from making progress in their recovery.
Standards for Dietitians
There are standards that are unique for dietitians. Dietitians are expected to also know how to assess for eating disorder symptoms. But dietitians should also be able to figure out a client’s nutritional needs. Dietitians should also be able to implement nutritional interventions to help a client achieve their treatment goals. Dietitians should also be able to provide nutrition counseling .
These aren’t all of the standards, but the above mentioned ideas paint a clear picture of what credentialing could look like for treatment providers . These standards can help clinicians feel confident and prepared to provide the best possible care.
Not only could this increase the safety and efficacy of treatment, but might also increase the amount of providers are able to treat these disorders. This could make eating disorder treatment more accessible and easier to find.
Resources: McLean, S.A., Hurst, K., Smith, H., Shelton, B., Freeman, J., Goldstein, M., Jeffrey, S., & Heruc, G. (2020). Credentialing for eating disorder clinicians: A pathway for implementation of clinical practice standards. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(62), 1-3.  Hurst, K. Heruc, G., Thornton, C., Freeman, J., Fursland, A., Knight, R., Roberts, M., Shelton, B., Wallis, A., & Wade, T. (2020) ANZAED practice and training standards for mental health professionals providing eating disorder treatment. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(58), 1-10.  Heruc, G., Hart, S., Stiles, G., Fleming, K., Casey, A., Sutherland, F., Jeffrey, S., Roberton, M., & Hurst, K. (2020) ANZAED practice and training standards for dietitians providing eating disorder treatment. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(77), 1-9.
About the Author:
Samantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published July 28, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 28, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC