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Occupational therapists reject ill-informed comments around eating disorders

Occupational therapists have refuted ill-informed comments around the clinical support of those experiencing severe eating disorders.

Responding to an article in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age, the CEO of Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA), Samantha Hunter, said it was regrettable that Dr Mike Freelander and Professor Ian Hickie had bought into the ongoing feud between clinical and registered psychologists.

“This was unwise, because in the course of their intervention, they belittled the demonstrated effectiveness of other allied health professions in the support of those with severe eating disorders,” Ms Hunter said.

“Dr Freelander contradicts himself, saying in one breath that those with a severe eating disorder need the care of a multi-disciplinary team, but in another excluding occupational therapists and social workers from such teams.

“Professor Hickie does himself and others a grave disservice by suggesting that the qualifications and experience of allied health professionals might have been gained at a ‘weekend training course’.

“Both men should know better,” Ms Hunter said.

Occupational therapists working in mental health are educated to degree level and beyond, and deliver services to people across the spectrum of mental illness, including those with particularly complex conditions and comorbidities. The unique focus of occupational therapy on enabling participation in the occupations of everyday life remains the core focus, regardless of whether occupational therapists work with people with mental health problems, physical health problems, or both.

Ms Hunter noted that following the publication of yesterday’s article, the Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt, had tweeted that ‘there have been no changes to health care professionals who are able to treat eating disorders under the MBS’.

“The new arrangements simply increase accessibility to these professionals, which is great news for those in need of help,” Ms Hunter said.

“it is regrettable that the welcomed announcement of a significant funding boost for those experiencing eating disorders has been overshadowed by a long running campaign to discredit valuable mental health professionals who are key to multi-disciplinary teams and holistic care.”

Ms Hunter noted also that OTA is participating in the Commonwealth Government’s ongoing process to ensure that only those with appropriate experience are endorsed to deliver services as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

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