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Unregulated ‘eating disorder coaches’ putting people at risk, say experts

Vulnerable mental health patients are being put at risk by unregulated “eating disorder coaches” who do not have the necessary qualifications, experts have said.

As demand for eating disorder support soars – hospital admissions for eating disorders increased by 84% in the last five years – more people are filling gaps in NHS care.

So-called eating disorder coaches, who tend to be personal trainers or dietitians recovering from the illness themselves, are charging as much as £1,000 a month for sessions to offer support to others despite having little or no training and expertise.

The Guardian has found that many coaches cite short courses, which are intended as professional development for psychologists, as a qualification to practise.

The National Centre for Eating Disorders (NCED) offers a number of professional training courses, accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). The Guardian found a number of coaches were using these courses to claim they were qualified to offer professional services to people with eating disorders.

Agnes Ayton, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ eating disorders faculty, said she was “amazed” to see people “advertising themselves as experts after going on one course”.

“Eating disorders sit between physical and mental health so the risks associated with eating disorders can be physically debilitating and potentially fatal,” Ayton said. “I don’t know why there is not better regulation on that because there is lots of regulation for a medical professional – but therapy is the first line of treatment for eating disorders, and if it is not delivered properly, it can be harmful or misleading.”

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Source: The Guardian, 21 March 2023


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