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How To Become a Specialist in the Eating Disorder Field

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

For professionals who work in the eating disorder field, this is often a choice that is fueled by passion and the desire to help those who are suffering find hope and healing.

Within the eating disorder field, there are many different specialties that work together as a comprehensive team for treating the eating disorder sufferers.

This might include a medical doctor, psychiatrist, therapist/counselor, registered dietitian, nurse and social worker.

Whether you are curious about how to become specialized in the eating disorder field or wondering the credentials behind the professionals you work with, there is a process to become qualified as an eating disorder professional.

Beginning With Your Profession

Before becoming an eating disorder specialist, it is important to decide what profession you wish to practice in, such as a therapist, dietitian, physician, etc. In what ways do you want to serve and treat eating disorder sufferers? Are you more interested in the medical aspect of healing, the therapeutic side of treatment?

If you are unsure what profession might be best for you, consider doing internship work or shadowing a professional who currently works in a position that you might be interested in.

It is also helpful to understand the school criterion for whatever profession you choose to pursue, as this might also influence your decision. If you are choosing a second career, you may be more interested in something that requires minimal schooling, though this is certainly based on personal preference.

When considering a profession that works with the eating disorder population, you may also think about the setting of treatment that interests you. Are you more interested in eating disorder treatment at acute levels of care, like inpatient work or residential treatment?

Specializing in Eating Disorder Treatment

You may already be in the profession of your choice and wanting to learn more about how you can specialize in treating eating disorder patients. Unfortunately, education on eating disorders is often minimal in many professions, like dietetics, nursing, and medicine, so it may be helpful to do a rotation or internship if possible, in an eating disorder field or in shadowing an eating disorder professional. This can help give you some exposure and training in the field. Some of the best training occurs in actually being in the field working versus classwork, though the application of both can be helpful.

Connecting with an eating disorder specialist in your profession can also be helpful for mentoring purposes, as the eating disorder field can present various challenges. Having someone to confide in with more experience can be an invaluable resource as you continue your work.

Credentials and Resources

Organizations exist that support the eating disorder professional and include the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp) and the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED). Through iaedp, an eating disorder professional can obtain a certification as a specialist, including the Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS), the Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD), and the Certified Eating Disorder Creative Arts Therapist (CEDCAT), and the Certified Eating Disorder Registered Nurse (CEDRN).

Professionals who obtain these credentials have demonstrated clinical expertise through various venues, including experience, education, as well as an examination. Once credentialed with an iaedp certification, an eating disorder specialist is expected to maintain this credential by acquiring consistent work hours in the field and maintaining continuing education credits.

The Academy for Eating Disorders can be a helpful resource for eating disorder professionals, allowing for networking opportunities while promoting “global access to knowledge, research and best treatment practices for eating disorders”.

Eating disorder specialists are a crucial part of the recovery process for those who are suffering. If you are interested in working in the eating disorder field as a professional, begin by connecting with one of the above organizations or a current professional in the field to begin your journey.

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