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What You Need to do to Work in the Eating Disorder Recovery Field (Part 1)

Jen The Tracy
  The inbox of our Facebook and Twitter pages are always rolling with questions about treatment, insurance, volunteering and services for eating disorder recovery. However, the most predominant question we get is “How do I get a job at the Victorian?” Today we answer this question.  

I will first go over some basic requirements for working in the recovery field. Due to the close proximity of working with clients in the middle of their eating disorder we have found many who are attracted to working in the field have experienced an eating disorder themselves. For this reason, most recovery facilities and rehabs require a minimum of two years of eating disorder recovery (meaning two years of abstaining from eating disordered behaviors.) The two year mark is a good barometer for ensuring that those giving recovery have time away from the disease and have also developed their own boundaries and strong voice. Working with clients in the recovery field requires being emotionally strong and using your voice a lot.

Anyone who has worked on an eating disorder treatment team will tell you that working with a client is like a game of tug of war.  Imagine for a second that there are two different people in an eating disorder clients body. One person is the eating disorder; the other person is the clients true self. When working with the client the staff has to constantly be on guard for the eating disorder behaviors of lying, stealing, attention seeking, self-harming and manipulation. As well as simultaneously encourage a client’s true self to emerge. Encouraging the client to use their voice, state their opinion, take responsibility, make amends and be honest. Constantly deciphering between killing the eating disorder and advocating for the true self can be draining, especially when you are dealing with multiple clients in one facility.

The rewarding part of the career is that you are able to help a client to find freedom from their disease. You are given the rare opportunity to walk with them through painful moments when they want to give up, go home and give in to the disease. When you are able to play a part in them making the right choice and seeing them make changes in their behaviors makes the job incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

The hours of work in a facility vary. Due to the great stress that goes into working  in the mental health field, most facilities consider 32 hours to be a full time work week. Careers on the more administrative side are more likely to be 40 hour work week with an “on call” cell phone for staff to call in the case of an emergency.  

Pay in the mental health field varies quite a bit depending on the facility.  Hourly vs. salary pay depends on the level of work, the amount of schooling, certificates, degrees and time invested in the facility. Your best bet is to look up salary’s for certain job titles you’re interested in and see how much the pay is for those jobs in your area. Geography has a great deal to do with pay. What one facility pays in Southern California can vary greatly to what another pays in Southern Carolina.

Next week we will be back with Part 2, covering the different positions on an eating disorder treatment team and the schooling , certificates and experience required to go with each position. In the meantime consider this post and ask yourself some questions:

Would I be triggered by others in eating disorder recovery?   Would the pay be suitable for my lifestyle?   Would the stress level be suitable for my lifestyle?   Do I know anyone working in the eating disorder recovery field that I can ask more questions to?   If you have any further questions regarding the basics of working in an eating disorder treatment facility please put them in the comment section below!