The perceived knowledge, skill and clinical practice of psychologists, naturopaths and fitness instructors when working with eating disorders.
About this resource
AIMS: When it comes to working with eating disorders (EDs), few studies have explored: the clinical practice; service provision barriers; and self-perceptions of knowledge/skill and the ability to detect EDs in practice against measured ability to do so, of common health providers including psychologists, naturopaths and fitness instructors. METHODS: Of the 115 participants, 90.4% were female with a mean age of 40.77 years (SD = 10.80 years) and comprised: 35 psychologists, 50 naturopathic and 30 fitness practitioners. Participants completed a 23-item survey measuring clinical practice behaviours including assessment and early intervention services, practitioner service barriers, perceived ED knowledge and skill. RESULTS: Only 1 in 20 indicated using standardized surveys to screen for EDs, with 72% indicating reluctance to universally screen clients, with a key barrier being that ED symptoms were typically not the presenting issue. For practitioners who missed detecting EDs in practice, 53.6% indicated this was because weight fell within the normal range or because the client did not present with an ED so they did not think to screen for one (39.29%). In terms of interventions, most (79%) were providing services to clients with EDs, with over one-third providing weight-loss advice, potentially contributing to a harmful weight-centric/dieting treatment approach. Despite most practitioners delivering services, 85.7% felt unable to treat some clients appropriately, primarily due to a lack of skill (52.6%). CONCLUSIONS: Further training is imperative to improve universal screening and evidence-based early intervention practices, which may be particularly helpful for naturopaths and fitness instructors who more commonly perceived their knowledge to be low.
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