The Treatment Team
The management of an eating disorder often requires the assistance of a number of professionals. Ideally, treatment should address the physical, psychological, behavioural, social and cultural dimensions of the disorder. This frequently requires a multi-disciplinary team. The team may include general practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, dietitians, counsellors, social workers, paediatricians, and others. The role of each of these is briefly explained below.
General Practitioner (GP)
For most people, a GP is usually the first point of call for a person with disordered eating. GPs will all have a medical degree, but some may also have some further qualifications. In general, GPs assess symptoms, perform medical examinations and give advice and education on medical issues. Where a moderate to severe eating disorder is suspected, GPs will often refer patients to specialist practitioners for further assessment and treatment as necessary. GPs can prescribe drug treatments such as anti-depressants.
Psychologists are graduates who provide counselling to individuals, couples or groups. In Victoria, a psychologist will have completed a four year degree and then trained under the supervision of a qualified psychologist for a further two years. Clinical psychologists are further trained in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness and psychological problems. Psychologists used a number of different approaches to therapy (see therapies section). EDV offers private psychology sessions with a psychologist with specific training and experience in working witin eating disorders.
Psychiatrists have a medical degree and additional qualifications in psychiatry. They will be registered with the Medical Board of Australia and also be a member of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). Because they are medically trained, in addition to providing therapy, psychiatrists can prescribe medication, are able to monitor how well the medication is (or is not) working, and can assess and monitor physical symptoms. A referral to a psychiatrist can be obtained from a GP or from another medical practitioner.
Dietitians have generally completed a four-year course in nutrition and dietetics. They provide nutritional assessment, eating plans, and nutritional education. Dietitians are vital in the process of nutritional rehabilitation and the development of healthy eating patterns. They work with the person with the eating disorder to identify fears of food, and discuss the consequences of not eating well. They also work with the individual to recognise feelings of physical hunger and fullness and a healthy response to these.
Many people who are not psychologists or psychiatrists offer counselling, and this can be a very helpful part of treatment. Many counsellors have completed specialist courses in counselling technique or welfare, but a person can work as a counsellor in Australia without being a member of a professional body or having any specific qualification. It is wise to ask any prospective counsellor about their training and experience, and be upfront if you have any concerns about their practice.
Social workers are graduates who provide counselling including individual, couple and/or family therapy. They may also facilitate self-help and support groups. Their role in the treatment team may include assisting with information and advice on living situations, relationships, financial resources, employment, health and education.
A paediatrician is a doctor who provides specialist medical care to infants, children and adolescents. To become a paediatrician doctors must complete six years of extra training after they finish their medical degree. There are general paediatricians and specialist paediatricians such as paediatric cardiologists, gastroenterologists, developmental experts, etc. Paediatricians are usually involved in the treatment and care of adolescents and children with eating disorders.
- Last revision date: Wednesday, 27 May 2015 11:30