This year I attended my third consecutive International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED). Although many aspects of the conference are the same from year to year, the experience has changed for me over time as I have been able to gain new insights and knowledge every time I go. This year, I felt like a seasoned conference attendee… not only because the event was held in my home-base, Boston, but also because I was familiar with the process and now know many of the people who regularly attend. I think the two major draws of attending conferences are the discovery and dissemination of knowledge as well as the networking aspect.
My favorite presentation was about utilizing short-term group family treatment for patients with anorexia nervosa. This particular therapy consisted of a few weeks of intense treatment that included education, multidisciplinary therapy, meal coaching, individual counseling and continued care planning. Family therapy has been the gold standard of care for patients with eating disorders, especially in adolescent and young adults, for a number of years. However, there is less research about the use of group therapy, let alone group family therapy. From my experience working on a number of eating disorder units, patients have mixed thoughts about group treatment. For some patients, being in a group setting can be a trigger to cause them to compare themselves harshly against others. On the other hand, a number of patients cherish group therapy and end up finding support from other members. In my opinion, parents often find groups extremely helpful because they are able to relate to others going through similar experiences. From the perspective of a nurse and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, group family therapy allows many people to receive treatment simultaneously and allows the members to learn from and help each other. The researchers from the University of California Eating Disorder Center found promising results in a relatively short period of time by using this form of group family therapy. Although more research is needed, so far it seems this is an effective version of evidenced based family therapy that can be useful in the clinical setting.
Another benefit of attending this conference was being able to network with other people in my field. I caught up with my friends from Africa, Australia and all over the United States, including Florida and California. Since I graduated this year, the ICED conference was also an opportunity to meet people from facilities that I could potentially work at. During the “exhibition” portion of the conference, sponsors including a number of eating disorder centers from around the world, set up booths with information about their sites. I met with individuals from Walden Behavioral Care, Monte Nido and Newton Wellesley Eating Disorder Center. I have since been in touch with two of these facilities about potential job opportunities! I think that being face to face with these organizations gave me the upper hand in finding a job. For example, I was able to mention in my cover letters that I spoke with the owners and CEO’s of the facilities I applied to. I’m excited to see where these opportunities lead and definitely think that attending this conference is helping me in this search.