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Ever wonder how your treaters view working with you as a troubled eater? This topic came up at a workshop I taught last week for the Mountain Area Health Education Center and the Center for Disordered Eating in Asheville, NC. Here are some of participants’ sentiments, which are representative of clinicians in general.
The clinicians in the workshop—nurses, therapists, and dieticians—work in clinics, private practice, hospitals, and rehabs and treat a range of problems, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, body dysmorphia, nutritional imbalances, depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder, along with medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. All are committed to helping clients: eat more “normally” and healthfully, love their bodies at any size, reduce health risks and increase longevity, decrease food obsession, fight destructive cultural values condemning fat and extolling thin, use their bodies more functionally, turn to people instead of food or weight/food preoccupation when distressed, and live a full emotional and physical life.
Participants shared several treatment challenges. One is the common pitfall of working harder than their clients to get them healthy. I, too, struggle to be supportive without caring more about clients’ recovery than they do themselves. Another issue is how best to care for clients who have multiple mental health and physical diagnoses. Clinicians found working as a team to be critical in developing a solid treatment plan and in coordinating services to manage ongoing, co-occurring conditions. They expressed eagerness to place clients in groups, as well as frustration (along with compassion) with client’s fears of joining groups. Another challenge is clients “rebelling” against their best efforts and advice. Although they mentioned feeling occasional hopelessness and helplessness, the hope and dedication felt toward their clients remained strong.
Like you, your treaters are doing the best they can. You will make mistakes and so will they. What’s important is to build a trusting relationship with them by discussing how you—clinician and client—view each other and feel about the recovery process. This means talking about your treatment perceptions. For example, have you ever asked your treaters how they feel about treating you: what makes it easy and what makes it hard to work with you, what you could do to help them help you, what they could do differently which would enhance the recovery process, how you might work together more effectively to serve your needs? Be courageous, be curious, be open, be direct and try asking these questions at your next appointment.
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