The Academy for Eating Disorders is an international, trans-disciplinary, non-profit membership organization for professionals and advocates engaged in research, treatment and prevention of eating disorders. AED has a following of over 1,500 members and offers a wide variety of resources, supports, education and services. Each year the AED hosts the International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED) which offers an environment for education, training, collaboration and peer discussions. This year’s conference had a record attendance of almost 900 participants.
As part of our ongoing efforts to have our staff networking with other professionals and developing best practices, this year BANA sent two of our clinical staff members (Leta and Dana) to the AED conference in Montreal, Canada. We have asked them to provide you with a brief snapshot of some of the most educational, inspiring and exciting topics covered at this year’s conference from their perspective.
“One of the most educational and thought provoking sessions for both of us was entitled “Where Are All the Men? – Eating Disorders Among Males.” During this session we learned that 1 in 6 people with eating disorders are male but that only 1 in 20 clients are male. These were striking statistics which ultimately led to a discussion as to how the perception and presentation of eating disorders are different in men.
The most noticeable study statistics showed that men are more concerned with leanness and muscle mass than thinness. Men are less likely to engage in the use of laxatives and diet pills, but instead are more likely than women to use food supplements and steroids. This discussion progressed to address how most standardized assessments and assessment tools are biased and skewed towards women. In most applications they utilize language and questions that are more clearly aligned with a female’s experience of an eating disorder. For example in the frequently used “Eating Disorder Inventory,” (a common diagnostic tool) it asks for confirmation of opinion comments such as “I think that my thighs are too large.” Based on the research of our presenters and the experience of conference participants; men are not inclined to think about their bodies in such ways.
Needless to say, this session had a great impact on us and will undoubtedly lead to discussions about our own assessment and treatment process in conjunction with ways in which we can improve the experiences of the men that do seek treatment at BANA.”
During the course of the conference Dana and Leta had the opportunity to attend multiple workshops. One of which covered the topic of how clinician’s emotions can either help or hinder Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for eating disorders. The workshop was given by a charismatic gentleman by the name of Glenn Waller, Professor of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry for King’s College in London, UK. Glenn uses CBT with his clients and is interested in how our own emotions can impact the therapeutic process.
“In his own research, Glenn has found that clinicians who are more anxious tend to focus more on the therapeutic alliance and tend to use fewer proven techniques. His findings also indicated that clinicians who are more depressed are more likely to be pessimistic about using manuals as tools for change. Professor Waller encourages us as clinicians to become more familiar with and understand the purpose of our emotions.
If we are unable to distinguish our own emotions we may be engaging in therapy interfering behaviour ourselves. He suggests that we look at our own emotions in three sub sets: (1) our own emotional tendencies (are we naturally more bubbly/pessimistic/hopeful) (2) our response to stuff outside the room (what happens when we have an argument with our partner right before we leave for work?) and (3) our response to what happens in the room.
In CBT we identify that emotions are motivational states. They help us to identify that we need to do something. Emotions are necessary Glenn suggests that “what works for our client’s needs to be considered for clinicians”. For example; if a clinician feels anxiety when working with a client, the clinician might engage in some avoidant or safety behaviour of their own. This can result in the clinician avoiding difficult topics, not pushing for change or playing it safe. Behaviours such as this can interfere in therapy and result in in poor or negative treatment outcomes. It is important to be honest with ourselves as clinicians about the emotions we are feeling. In the case of the anxious clinician, one would need to identify the root of the anxiety and work towards lessening it. It might be helpful to remove any judgment about the emotion (“I shouldn’t feel this way”) and instead focus on the function of it (What are my emotions telling me?”). Professor Waller supports the notion that supervision is a key tool that we can utilize to address our emotions and why they might be there.”
Probably one of the most unique and informational workshops that BANA was able to attend was focused on the impact of social networking on an individual.
“Did you know that one out of every five minutes that an individual spends online is on some form of social network! That is an incredible average when you consider the vast array of public access and unfiltered information available in cyberspace. What we learned is that Twitter, Facebook and websites alike are a great way to inform, support and reach people from all over the world. At the conference we were able to tweet professionals, make connections and collaborate on many ideas.
Most importantly we got inspired and excited about the opportunities social media can provide to BANA as a means to better access with those in our community and around the world. With the launch of our new website, Facebook and Twitter feeds in March 2013, and along with our online Applebytes Newsletter, BANA is entering a brand new world of communication. Stay tuned and connected to our online presence because we have some inspiring ideas hopefully heading your way soon.”
– Article Written by BANA Clinicians, Leta Marchand and Dana Dupuis.