Who can I talk to?
- Should I talk to a therapist or doctor?
- What will the doctor do?
- What will the therapist do?
- What’s the difference between a counsellor, therapist, psychologist and psychotherapist?
Should I talk to a therapist or doctor?
You can start with either but at some stage you should talk to both. While an eating disorder is a mental illness (for which you should see a therapist) there are often physical consequences (for which you’ll need to see a doctor). In terms of who to start with, you may want to think about what is happening for you at the moment. If you have noticed some physical signs it’s best to go to the doctor first. But if you are more worried about your thoughts and feelings try a therapist first.
What will the doctor do?
The doctor will check out your physical health. They might ask questions about weight loss, if your periods are regular, and what other physical symptoms you are experiencing. They should take a blood sample to check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. They may also need to do a cardiovascular check. If you are vomiting you may be low in potassium which can cause heart problems and be very dangerous. If the doctor doesn’t offer to take your blood, suggest it to them. The doctor may ask you to come back regularly and they may prescribe some vitamin supplements. They should also refer you to a counselling service or (if there is one in your area) a specialist eating disorder clinic.
What will the therapist do?
Not all therapists will be the same, however on the first visit the therapist will generally undertake an assessment with you. This involves asking them lots of questions in regards to their eating, their feelings about themselves and their body and what other things are going on in your life at the moment. Depending on your age and what services they can offer they may suggest individual, family or group therapy. Therapy may be for a set amount of time or it may be indefinite.
What’s the difference between a therapist, counsellor, psychologist and psychotherapist and psychiatrist?
In terms of who to see for therapy a therapist, counsellor, psychologist and psychotherapist are all pretty similar. They differ in their level and type of training. Any psychologist should be registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board. Therapists, counsellors and psychotherapists should belong to NZAC (NZ Association of Counsellors) or NZAP (NZ Association of Psychotherapists). Psychiatrists need to be a registered medical practitioner in Zealand with a vocational specialisation in Psychiatry. Being registered or belonging to an association ensures an appropriate level of education and supervised experience. Psychiatrists may not undertake the therapy but you may need to see them for an assessment at some stage.