The talk was well received and seen as useful by many people though some had reservations about the talk being too prescriptive’. ‘HACP is a broad church and its members include all categories from trainee or newly  qualified counsellors who confirmed they learned a great deal from this Talk, to highly experienced and qualified counsellors and psychotherapists some of whom have successfully worked with Eating Disorders over a significant period of years and would have preferred that to have been acknowledged whilst they took on board the additional reflective learning from the evening – respect is always a two-way street’.

Very often people with ED are labelled into a category as suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia and more specifically as a person eg anorexic or bulimic – defining their behaviour in line with DSM 5 categorisations.  Deanne explained that she and her therapists have found that their clients may sometimes exhibit over time symptoms of more than just one diagnosis.  It’s very common for example for a client who has struggled with anorexia nervosa (being severely emaciated) to then struggle with bulimia nervosa or compulsive eating (significant weight gain above a healthy level).  I have seen this to be true with both clients and in my social circle.

Similarly, there are a range of eating disorders that are newer and aren’t deemed to be specifically related to food, but rather can for example be a sensory issue.

Deanne said the centre takes a very holistic approach to working with clients with ED.  In my clinical experience those who’ve had collaboration of professionals from many fields, seem to do cope with life better in the long term.  Those who are severely emaciated have their initial care focussed on achieving a body weight that helps their body function normally.  This requires very astute care as a client whose body is severely emaciated requires significant medical attention to keep them alive first and foremost.  There are physiological complications too with other ED including bulimia nervosa, where electrolyte balance is often severely disrupted due to purging of food.

Deanne affirms that eating disorders are specifically (and only) related to food intake, body weight and shape.  Some learned colleagues who have worked for decades with clients, many with ED feel this is inaccurate. Many who struggle with eating disorders will express that it was always about being in control (and then at times being out of control).  This typically occurs during a time of crisis and/or considerable stress.  The manifestation of this stress is directed towards controlling what is or isn’t eaten, or achieving/maintaining a certain (often unhealthy) weight.  The NHS classifies ARFID (Avoidance/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) as both a mental health issue and an eating disorder.

For many participants Deanne’s evening talk was both informative and enjoyable.  Sharing her wealth of experience gave colleagues some additional information to support their work with clients with ED or a past history of ED.

There were experienced colleagues who felt that their work with ED was devalued during the talk and perhaps deemed inappropriate.  There were several mentions by Deanne that some counsellors ‘may wish to train with her centre’.  It was unclear whether Deanne had assessed whether colleagues attending the evening talk were versed in working with ED as a starting point.  Sometimes in person, those check-ins are a bit more seamless.  Similarly other colleagues felt they were being sold her course, which didn’t fit with their expectations of the evening.  There were expectations from some of learning how to spot the symptoms of an ED rather than things ‘being ‘dangled’ in front of us but didn’t explain except to say we need more training’.  Another said ‘I did enjoy listening to Deanne.  She was very good at putting the information across.  ….I did feel there was perhaps some pressure put on therapists that they are not enough for the clients if they don’t have the “training” she talked about’.  Others enjoyed ‘the vast knowledge that the speaker demonstrated’.

Overall the majority of attendees were enamoured by the evening, finding it uplifting and many were keen to learn more.

Feedback on Zoom from several members – less likely to ‘speak up’ in a zoom call of 80+ people, versus putting a hand up in a room with face to face presentation.  Several people benefit from more small group interaction.  Some questions asked in the zoom got lost, so perhaps we may have a chat moderator. As a committee, we can give this feedback to our speakers for future zoom talks.

Thank you Deanne.  It was a very intriguing evening.

Sinead Mitchell