Eating Disorders and Scope of Competence for Outpatient Psychotherapists

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Patients with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are at risk for premature death. These complex psychological disorders with potentially devastating physical consequences usually require that treatment professionals have specialized knowledge and skills that are often outside the scope of basic therapist training. Without a well-known and psychotherapeutic field-wide accepted definition of what constitutes minimum eating disorder treatment competence, psychotherapists are often left to decide for themselves. This article proposes a suggested standard body of initial knowledge and considerations for clinicians striving to obtain a level of competence—between generalist and specialist skillsets—in treating eating disorders in the outpatient setting. Suggested competency domains include: assessment and diagnosis, medical factors, nutrition and malnutrition, treatment strategies, and multidisciplinary collaboration and levels of care.

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