August 12, 2011

Cultivating my Passion to Work with an Eating Disordered Population

While I have not mentioned eating disorders as a topic of discussion on this blog before, I'm incredibly interested in working with individuals who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, in addition to other eating disorders not formally recognized by the DSM-IV, such as binge-eating disorder.

It is extremely common for mental health professionals to work in this field because they are either recovering from a disorder, or they know someone close to them who has. In fact, several eating disorder agencies, such as Monte Nido, would rather hire therapists that are in the midst of their own recovery, primarily because many experts believe "it takes one to know one."

For me, my desire to work with this population is not because of a firsthand experience with the disease, but rather, an intellectual curiosity fueled by a strong desire to help individuals discover a healing relationship with food. So many women (and fewer men) are dangerously close to developing an eating disorder, and I am passionate about wanting to help individuals formulate a nurturing relationship with what they eat.

While this may or may not have increased my desire to work with an eating disordered population, my mentality about food in addition to my food shopping habits have changed dramatically over the passed few years. For example, I now purchase organic food at my local Trader Joe's whenever possible, I buy local produce at the Brentwood Farmer's Market (somewhat of a ritual every other Sunday), and I stay up-to-date on food issues by reading Marion Nestle and Darya Pino. I believe that the act of eating should be a wholly enjoyable experience, and to some extent, a sacred one.

Because my desire to work with an eating disordered population is so strong, I found a local eating disorder agency in Santa Monica to intern with. While I was only able to shadow the therapists at the agency for a few days in July, the experience significantly reinforced my desire to work with this population. While I'm not quite sure if I'll be able to maintain both this internship, in addition to my internship at Didi Hirsch, I figure I owe it to myself to at least try.

My advice to my readers is that if there is a population with which you absolutely want to work with, and your school or program does not give you the opportunity to do so, find a way to do it on your own.

Photo Credit: National Institute of Health


Natalie L. Hill said...

Best of luck pursuing your passion. It's an important area, and not a good fit for everyone (precisely because so many people, clinicians included, have unresolved food issues, even if they have no eating disorder history). I've actually found I prefer working with issues that I HAVEN'T struggled with. It gets me out of my own head, and is easier to maintain curiosity rather than making assumptions.

Laura said...

Thanks Natalie, and yes I agree. There are a lot of social workers who go into fields with unresolved issues. Thanks for your two sense!