Navigating the System of Care for Eating Disorders

Shown below are the different eating disorder service options, offering support from the initial diagnosis, through treatment, and to recovery care. You may only come into contact with one, or a few of these types of services, or you may use a practitioner or service at each of these points in your care. Either way, it is helpful to know what types of support you can seek in your community.

In understanding the stepped system of care for eating disorders, you can think about it as a series of services or treatment options that increase or decrease in intensity (e.g., frequency of appointments) according to your changing physical, psychological, nutritional and functional needs. This means that you should be able to access the right type of treatment at the right time for you, with changes made to the treatment along your recovery journey if you require it. For example, you may need to access a more intensive service such as a day program, or you may move from a public-funded mental health service that offers appointments more regularly to a private clinician whom you see less frequently.

Having support from a mental health professional and a medical practitioner (e.g., GP) are important components of your treatment. Your family, carer, or supports also play an important role in care, support and recovery.

If you would like to learn more about the stepped system of care and the types of services available within each of these seven steps, please see NEDC website.

Treatment Provider

When you are searching for a credentialed mental health professional or dietitian through this website, we are supporting you to find a treatment provider – that is, someone who will be providing focused evidence-based mental health or dietetic treatment for the eating disorder. The credentialed clinician may also work in a role in early identification, initial response, or recovery.

The provision of treatment for someone experiencing an eating disorder should sit within a multidisciplinary treatment team. This includes a medical practitioner (such as your GP), a mental health professional, and a dietitian if accessible. ‘Mental health professional’ is an umbrella term for a number of different professions that provide mental health care and treatment. These professions include counselling, nursing, occupational therapy, psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy and social work. Your GP may also be able to provide mental health treatment if they have completed training in this area. The mental health provider will have areas of particular expertise and you can ask about this when speaking with your GP or the practice or service that they work for.

Further information about the role of different professions that provide eating disorder treatment can be found here, and details of specific evidence-based treatments can be found here.

When searching for a treatment provider, understanding the setting in which they work can be helpful so you know the type of service that you will be attending, and who else from their team may be supporting you in your recovery journey.

Treatment Settings

Clinicians working in private practice may work within a larger practice, as a sole practitioner, within another multidisciplinary care setting, or may work in a headspace centre. If your GP refers you to a private practitioner, you can choose the person you would like to see, and each clinician will have specific interests and skill sets which you can learn about on this website and by asking the practice. Your clinician will develop a treatment plan with you and together you can decide how often you will attend appointments. Some private practices have a wait list so it can be helpful to ask about this, as well as fees, when you contact them. Your treatment provider will work closely with your GP to make sure that your physical and mental health needs are well supported.

Considerations: If you live in a rural or remote area, or you cannot find a mental health professional in your local area, you may be able to have a telehealth video consultation instead. If your treatment provider can claim under Medicare, this is also available for telehealth appointments as well as in-person appointments. If you are searching for a credentialed clinician, you can choose telehealth as an option through the search function. Information on costs of treatment can be found here.

Who can I contact: The Find a Treatment Provider searchable database will be coming soon, in the meantime speak to your GP about private practitioners who have experience in eating disorder treatment.

Each state has their own government funded mental health service, and these services are located in various metro and regional areas, also reaching into rural areas. If you are referred to a public mental health service, you will be allocated a case manager or treatment provider rather than being able to choose. You will also see a psychiatrist and some services may have a dietitian or other allied health professionals as part of your treating team. Most public mental health services are able to see only people who have certain eating disorder diagnoses, with some limited to seeing only those with Anorexia Nervosa or Atypical Anorexia.

Considerations: It is free to attend these services, and your GP, paediatrician, or psychiatrist can help you understand more about eligibility for your local service and make a referral for you. These services may have a wait list – contact them if you want to know about wait times.

Who can I contact: Mental health services provide service according to age bands – Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or Child & Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) for children and adolescents and Adult or Community Mental Health Service (AMHS or CMHS) for adults. Search online for CAMHS or AMHS in your local area to find your closest service. You can also talk to your GP about local options.

There are some public and private services which focus specifically on eating disorders – these programs may sit within a hospital setting or as a separate service. Generally, these programs will offer more intensive services; this means you would see your treatment provider regularly and may work with other professionals within the team such as a psychiatrist and dietitian. The programs that these services may offer include individual therapy, group programs, and support with meals. Some services may also offer outreach, visiting you in your home, or longer stay residential care. Similar to public mental health services, eating disorder-specific programs may have policies that they are able to see only people who have certain eating disorder diagnoses.

Considerations: The costs of these programs will depend on whether they sit within a public or private service. You can ask about these from your GP or directly from the service.