We were lucky to catch up with Annetta Ramsay recently and have shared our conversation below.
Annetta, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. We’d love to hear the story behind how you got your first job in field that you currently practice in.
When I was working on my Ph.D., I told my classmates I wanted to have a practice specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. My classmates laughed, because at the time, no one was treating eating disorders, and the niche practices weren’t a thing.
A great deal has changed in the past 30 years. Now, we have an extensive body of research informing treatment protocols. Most importantly, most professionals and more and more of the general public understand that eating disorders are a specialty. We do treat co-morbid conditions, like depression and anxiety, alongside eating disorders, but treatment of eating disorders requires special knowledge and training.
Unfortunately, insurance companies and therapy websites list therapists as specialists if they indicate they are willing to treat eating disorders. Patients and families need to make sure the professional presented to them as a specialist really is an eating disorders specialist. Having certification from the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, expressed as CEDS (Certified Eating Disorders Specialist) is one way to tell.
The most important thing for everyone to understand is that people can and do recover from eating disorders. I can’t guarantee it, but if people find qualified providers, and spend enough time in treatment, recovery can happen. That’s a big change from the old belief that people never cover from eating disorders.
Annetta, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’m a Ph.D. trained, licensed, board certified counselor and an Internationally Certified Eating Disorders Specialist – Supervisor. I have treated, spoken, taught, and been interviewed about eating disorders for over 30 years. I’m also an OpEd Fellow with the OpEd Projects, and I have written over 100 local and national articles, many on the topic of eating disorders. I founded and direct Chrysalis, an out-patient treatment program for eating disorders in Denton, Texas.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
Every business has pivoted during the pandemic, and that’s true in the eating disorders field. At the beginning of the pandemic, eating disorder treatment shifted online overnight. It was our only option. There are some benefits to online treatment. Patients don’t have to leave their homes, which is great for those who would have a long commute to get the care they need. Some patients work better in an online environment.
But most people do best with in person therapy. I’m glad we are returning to that modality.
Right now, we are offering services both online and in-person, which means we can go online when someone is ill. We serve more people by working with them in the environment where they are most comfortable.
Training and knowledge matter of course, but beyond that what do you think matters most in terms of succeeding in your field?
We know so much more about the biopsychosocial factors that set people up for eating disorders than we did when I started. Now, a body of research informs our treatment protocols. It’s important to stay up on research, because the field changes constantly.
Other than training, supervision, and knowledge, it’s important to have a passion for our clients. They often feel discouraged and ashamed, especially if they struggle with bulimia or binge eating. They need treatment providers who genuinely care about them. I’m constantly amazed at how each person’s recovery journey is different, and that unique struggle is part of why I’m still doing this after so many years.
One of the recent theories about eating disorders is that they are a form of passion. Passions are good when they guide people to do something important, but in the case of eating disorders, especially anorexia, the passion to become thin can go too far. I like the passion theory because it isn’t judgemental and it doesn’t label people. Healing happens when people figure out how to take a passion that fueled their disordered eating and turn it into self-care. What I like about the passion theory of eating disorders is that it’s a more positive way of viewing eating disorders.
Also, you will never hear me say someone is anorexia or bulimia. I will use the extra words to say someone struggles with an eating disorder because a diagnosis, while helpful, isn’t a person. Helping people differentiate their healthy thoughts, however quiet, from their eating disorder thoughts is how healing starts.
It’s also important to involve clients’ families or partners in the healing process. I don’t believe in shaming parents. Helping parents understand how they can provide a better environment — without judgement or blame — is critical to recovery.
- Website: northtexaseatingdisorders.com
Photos owned by Chrysalis Group Treatment for Eating Disorders