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Becoming an eating disorder specialist requires dedication, time, and a true desire to help people who are dealing with a debilitating and life-threatening condition. Often classified with addiction specialists, counselors who work with patients with eating disorders must have a variety of knowledge and clinical skills in order to effectively help manage the causes and effects of this particular addictive behavior.
Undergraduate Education for an Eating Disorder Specialist
To start, future eating disorder specialists will need a bachelor's degree. Clinical psychology is the start to working hands-on with patients in the mental health and human services fields. Courses include introduction to psychology, behavioral sciences statistics, clinical psychology research methods, clinical methods, and abnormal psychology. Undergraduate students may also be able to specialize a degree with elective course work closely related to eating disorders or addictions.
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Eating Disorder Specialists and Graduate Degree Requirements
After completion of an undergraduate degree, most professionals will need to complete a minimum of a master's degree in order to practice as an eating disorder specialist. One option for meeting the education requirement to become an eating disorder specialist is to complete a graduate degree in health education. Courses in this curriculum include social behaviors, philosophy and education, eating disorder treatment modalities, awareness and prevention of eating disorders, and counseling and nutrition.
Future eating disorder counseling professionals might also opt to pursue a graduate degree in clinical counseling or psychology. After completing this graduate program, completion of a post-graduate certificate can be helpful for gaining the specific knowledge necessary in order to treat a variety of eating disorders from anorexia and bulimia to food addiction. Courses in a post-graduate certificate are likely to include diagnosis of eating disorders, assessment of eating disorders, treatment issues with eating disorders, and physiological aspects of eating disorders. Many professionals will also continue on to complete a doctorate degree in clinical psychology with significant focus on eating disorders.
Eating Disorder Specialist Certifications and Licensing
In addition to degree requirements, many states require licensing in order to practice as a clinical psychologist or counselor. Professional certifications can be beneficial for meeting the qualifications for this licensing as well as for further preparing and illustrating counseling skills specific to eating disorders. One certification that can be helpful is the Certified Addiction Specialist designation from the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders organization.
The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals also offers certification in order to help counseling professionals manage the care of patients with these disorders. IAEDP offers two certifications: the Certified Eating Disorders Specialist in Mental Health (CEDS) and the Certified Eating Disorders Specialist in Nutrition (CEDSN). Each certification requires specific education, experience, and successful completion of a testing examination in order to qualify for the designation.
The education, certifications, and licensing are in place to help eating disorder specialists manage the various issues of care associated with this particular treatment. Although there are several requirements to fulfill in becoming an eating disorder specialist, the ability to help individuals of all genders and ages cope with various types of eating disorders is gratifying and rewarding on both the personal and professional levels.
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