The importance of putting together the right team in eating disorder recovery

Eating disorder recovery is not without its challenges. And it can be heartbreaking to watch a loved one go through that rocky path, even if you’re walking bedside them the whole time. 

That’s why the right eating disorder treatment team is so important. You can pull in the right experts at the right time to provide the physical and psychological care that your loved one needs.

Finding the right eating disorder treatment team isn’t easy. Here are some tips to help you as you support your loved one in their treatment and recovery.

Who treats eating disorders?

There are a range of different treatment options available for eating disorders. The treatment path will depend on the particular eating disorder your loved one has as well as the severity of their symptoms. The treatment path may also evolve over time through recovery and/or relapse. 

An eating disorder treatment team may include:

  • Medical practitioners, such as a GP or paediatrician
  • Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counsellors or social workers
  • Other health professionals, such as dietitians, occupational therapists or nurses

Generally, a person with an eating disorder will have a core treatment team that consists of a medical practitioner and a mental health professional. From time to time, as they face various eating disorder recovery challenges, other health professionals will join the team. They may provide short-term or ongoing support.

It’s also vital to acknowledge the role of family and friends in the recovery process. You are a central part of the team, providing support and care to your loved one around the clock.

The benefits of a multidisciplinary approach

Eating disorders manifest in both physical and psychological symptoms. Effective treatment and care requires an approach that supports holistic recovery. Anyone who has recovered from an eating disorder will tell you that it’s not a linear path. But improvements in one area of care can positively impact other areas of care. 

Research has shown that comprehensive care through a multidisciplinary eating disorder treatment team delivers better patient outcomes. That is, that patients may stay in therapy longer and develop a planned approach for ending therapy. 

Rather than seeing different health professionals at different times to address different concerns, the team approach also allows for collaboration. The various members of your eating disorder treatment team can provide a holistic plan for care that considers the patient’s total wellbeing and recovery.

Why the right team is important

When you have the right treatment team in place, you have the support you need to care for your loved one. Being the parent, sibling or friend of someone suffering from an eating disorder is incredibly difficult. Your heart breaks and you feel alone and afraid of what’s to come.

The right team isn’t an overnight fix. Sadly, there are no quick fixes for eating disorders. What the right team does give you is hope and respite. It’s still a challenging road ahead. But it’s that much easier to walk when you have the support of the right professionals. 

Ideally, eating disorder treatment should always be patient centred. In cases where your loved one is unable to make decisions, the treatment team should work in collaboration with their family to make appropriate decisions about their care. The right team works collaboratively and shows respect. They also build trust and rapport with their patient and patient’s family. 

Why communication between the team is vital

By now you recognise the importance of a collaborative team. Stepping up from that is team communication. More often than not, this communication and collaboration is facilitated by the GP.

If your loved one is having regular GP appointments for observations,  a weekly (fortnightly or monthly) email out to all members of the team is generally a good idea so there is clear visibility on the physical condition of the person with the eating disorder.. Similarly, updates from all team members are a good idea, as are regular team meetings (usually held via zoom). This keeps the team working together towards the same goal, and keeping the parent or carer involved in the treatment plan moving forward.

Supporting you in the recovery journey

Whether you need advice on how to bring together the right eating disorder treatment team or help understanding the different eating disorders, we’re here to help.

EDFA was founded by carers for carers to support you as you support your loved one. Learn more about EDFA and our mission or tap into our resources for parents, carers and family members.