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Looking For Evidence

By Sue James, F.E.A.S.T. Parent Volunteer

As an RN I’m very passionate about evidence base. It makes so much sense to use it if I want to give my patients the best possible care. When my daughter was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in September 2019 it made sense that I was recommended to use Family Based Treatment (FBT) as it’s an evidence based treatment. Unfortunately until you try FBT you don’t know if it will or will not work for your child as not every treatment works for everyone.

On this journey with my daughter I have been alarmed to find that in Australia anyone can set themselves up as a treatment provider for eating disorders using any type of treatment and they don’t have to possess any qualifications in mental health or have any health professional registration or qualifications at all!

And there is no law in Australia that requires a counsellor or psychotherapist to have any qualifications, training, skills or experience!

We know that choosing providers is a real minefield anyway and it’s further complicated by this. But I think you just need to stop and ask yourself a couple of important questions before you even begin to make a  treatment choice.

Is your treatment provider registered with your country’s health regulatory board? These boards exist to protect the public.  If the person who is providing Eating Disorder (ED) treatment is not registered with them then they don’t have any health professional qualifications.

Secondly does the treatment have a name and is it evidence based? Evidence based means that research studies have been conducted and the treatment has been found to be effective in encouraging weight restoration , reducing eating disorder symptoms and decreasing eating disorder thoughts. If there is no transparency about the treatment , no data , no peer review then it’s probably not evidence based. Not every evidence based treatment works for everyone of course.

Is your treatment provider registered with a professional body?

Picking a treatment provider who is registered and belongs to a professional body is a good idea as they have to have certain qualifications and will engage in professional training and development regularly to keep updated.

And finally I think you need to ask yourself this question. If your child needed cardiac surgery and you went to a cardiac surgeon that your friend recommended and the surgeon said “I have years and years of lived experience and I know this treatment works because I was self taught to operate on hearts and I have cured 90% of my patients but I don’t actually have a name for this treatment or any data or research to prove it. Oh! And by the way I’m not registered as a health professional and have no qualifications except in carpentry,” would you choose this person to treat your child? I think an emphatic and resounding no from me!

Eating disorders can be deadly and are very complex so you want the best people treating your child using the best available evidence. Word of mouth is not evidence nor are family and friends’ recommendations that it has worked for them or their child. So please choose carefully and wisely and get information before you proceed.

At F.E.A.S.T , “We believe information is power and good treatment saves lives.” Here are some resources:

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  1. Jen

    Thank you for this. I’m here in the US. I asked my insurance if they have any kind of vetting process for providers who claim to treat EDs. If the provider checks the box that they treat eating disorders, what does that mean? How many years have they treated, how many patients, and what level of care? I was told that the providers can check off whatever boxes they want for their listing when they sign the contract with the insurance. There is no verification process. I used this argument to help get my daughter a single case agreement with an out of network CEDS certified provider. That said, there are some good providers who have worked in the ED field for many years, but do not have this certification. But for the most part, that is what I look for…to see if some of the supervisors or providers in an ED specific program are CEDS certified or IAEDP members.

  2. Wendy Silk

    We had asked the question of hospital/community health professionals that were recommended if they had any experience with treating an Eating Disorder previously, and we’re told no. So while there maybe evidenced based treatments like FBT, if the person delivering it inexperienced they can also do a lot of damage to your young person.

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