Why do I need to see a nutrition coach AND a therapist for successful eating disorder recovery? A common and costly mistake that people with eating disorders make is to see a therapist without including a nutritionist on the treatment team or vice versa. Hiring just a therapist OR a nutritionist to treat an eating disorder is like trying to row a boat with one oar – you may eventually get where you want to go, but it will take a lot longer and you will probably end up going in circles!
A psychotherapist is not trained in nutrition, and a nutritionist is not trained to be a therapist. One cannot be substituted for the other, and we are ethically and legally bound NOT to provide counsel in the other’s area of expertise. If you are seeing a nutritionist who does not also refer you to a therapist, or a therapist that tells you they can provide the nutritional counseling even though they are not a licensed dietitian (I wish I could say I have not seen this happen, but it does all the time), it is time to start over and find a more qualified treatment team. Additionally, not all nutritionists are created equal. Many dietitians do not have any experience treating eating disorders, and this requires a very separate skill set. Be assertive when interviewing a nutritionist, just as you were with the therapist.
What a Nutritionist Has to Offer Towards Your Recovery
A common question I receive about nutrition counseling is “I already know a lot about nutrition and what is healthy eating and what is not. I really don’t want to pay someone just to tell me what I already know.”
Even though you may already know a lot about nutrition, the way you implement that knowledge is subject to the many distorted messages society bombards us with every day about what constitutes healthy eating and weight.
Additionally, a qualified eating disorder nutrition specialist will address those distorted thoughts and fears you or your child has about his or her body, weight and eating habits, and help him or her to overcome them.
TIP: Don’t skimp on treatment by hiring a dietitian who is not an eating disorder specialist, or by not hiring a dietitian at all; you and/or your child will pay more financially and emotionally in the long run.
Look for These Warning Signs
Here are warning signs you have not chosen the right dietitian:
- If the she says “I have counseled a few people with eating disorders before, so I think we should be OK”, or “I don’t primarily work with eating disorders, but I’d like to try and want to help”, keep searching.
- If he tries to put your child on a restrictive diet, such as one that denies your child certain foods or food groups (i.e. no white sugar or carbs, no dessert foods allowed in the house).
- If she doesn’t recommend that your child sees her pediatrician regularly to determine if she is medically safe to be in outpatient treatment.
- If the nutritionist assures you that she can perform the counseling along with nutrition, so a therapist is unnecessary.
- If the nutritionist does not ask to speak with you on a regular basis to work with you on how to help your child with her progress at home.
Checklist of Questions to Ask a Dietitian:
- Have you ever worked with eating disorders?
- How long have you worked with eating disorder patients?
- In what settings have you worked with eating disorder patients? (I.e. in private practice, in a hospital, in an outpatient program?)
- Will you collaborate with my child’s other health care providers on a regular basis?
- What is your treatment philosophy for nutrition counseling, and especially for treating eating disorders?
- How many eating disorder patients have you treated over the last two years, and how many of them have recovered fully? What is your definition of full recovery?
- How are you going to address the eating disorder symptoms right away in order to help my child regain her physical health?
- Is it your standard practice to work with a therapist who is an eating disorder specialist, along with my child’s pediatrician and psychiatrist?
- Do you accept health insurance and/or offer a sliding fee scale or discount package?
- Do you have any complaints against you?
Dietitians at The Body Image Counseling Center
One of our fabulous dietitians, Elizabeth Lagasse, RD If finding the right dietitian feels overwhelming, you can always call to schedule with one of The Body Image Counseling Center’s experienced dietitians and know for sure you will be working with a caring expert in eating disorder recovery. As Owner of the Center, I have done the work for you and personally vetted our dietitians and know that they are the very best in the field. I stand by their abilities 100%, and so do our clients in recovery – just check out our testimonial page for proof! Our nutritionists are also experts in helping you live your best life while successfully coping with other GI issues such as: • IBD and IBS • Crohn’s Disease • Symptoms caused by menopause and perimenopause • Celiac disease • Diabetes types I and II • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome You can set up an initial appointment by filling out this appointment form, or call us and we will be in touch with you the same day!