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University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship – Eating Disorder Concentration in affiliation with The Emily Program (ED–TEP)

The Emily Program (TEP) maintains an affiliation with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition to provide in-depth eating disorder training experiences to those interns who have been accepted into the University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship – Eating Disorder Concentration (ED-TEP).

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Why choose The University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship – Eating Disorder Concentration?

Eating disorders are real, complex illnesses that can cause severe harm. As food and eating are at the center of eating disorders, registered dietitians are essential to effective treatment and recovery.

This Dietetic Internship is unique because ED-TEP dietetic interns work directly with experienced eating disorder dietitians to observe, learn, and participate in specialized nutrition interventions utilized in the treatment of clients with eating disorders. Through hands-on experience, interns develop and draw upon their skill and ingenuity to help clients progress in their recovery journey from the cunning and powerful force of their eating disorder.

The eating disorder concentration includes eight weeks of in-depth training in the nutritional care of individuals within the full spectrum of eating disorder diagnoses. Rotation placement will be divided between The Emily Program’s Minnesota residential treatment centers and outpatient treatment centers. This will include supervised practice experiences in various levels of eating disorder care for adolescent and adult populations. 

The Emily Program’s purpose is to deliver exceptional collaborative and individualized best-practice care so individuals and families can thrive. Our programs offer personalized, evidence-based specialty treatment across all levels of care for children, adolescents, and adults of all genders with eating disorders and related conditions. The Emily Program provides gender-affirming, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive treatment. We are committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at The Emily Program and would expect our dietetic interns to embrace these approaches to care.

What should I expect during the eating disorder portion of the internship?

You should expect to gain valuable clinical knowledge and active involvement in the nutritional care of clients with eating disorders, but it doesn’t end there.  Gaining an understanding from those experiencing an eating disorder and its treatment provides insights and holistic perspectives that not only prepare you for treating those with eating disorders, but transfers into effective, attuned care in all healthcare settings.

You will receive pre-internship preparation in nutritional interventions via recorded trainings and resource materials, as well as 16 hours of training at the start of the internship with The Emily Program’s Dietetic Internship Director, RDs, and clinicians. Throughout the academic year, you will have additional eating disorders-focused trainings on dietetic internship class days.

Among other things, you will be exposed to and work with:  

  • The full spectrum of eating disorder diagnoses: anorexia nervosa (AN), binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa (BN), Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED)  
  • Clients at various levels of care, from individual outpatient appointments to intensive day programs to 24/7 inpatient treatment
  • Virtual treatment  
  • Adults and adolescents  
  • Many types of people with varying origins, backgrounds, resources, identities, and belief systems 
  • Multidisciplinary treatment teams that include therapists, physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, art and music therapists, yoga instructors, culinary and administrative staff 
  • Client communities of support  
  • Comorbidities, including substance use disorder, trauma/PTSD, bipolar disorder, body image dysmorphia, pre- and post-bariatric surgery, GI distress, and other psychological, emotional, and physical disorders  

During your rotations, you will be immersed in The Emily Program’s process of providing comprehensive, personalized treatment for eating disorders – specifically, you will work alongside Registered Dietitians to experience the following:  

  • Observation of, and active involvement, in RD services including nutrition assessments, individual nutrition sessions, nutrition groups, therapeutic support meals/snacks, treatment team meetings    
  • Assist in providing nutrition therapy including meal plan recommendations, managing meal plan changes, and nutrition guidance throughout various stages of care  
  • Observation of RDs modeling TEP’s Nutrition Philosophy  
  • Nutrition services-related documentation  
  • Skills needed to provide basic nutrition counseling and therapy  
  • Skills needed to identify and address eating disorder behaviors  
  • Skills needed to assess a client’s readiness to change and promote client-driven goal-setting  
  • Participation in supporting clients during therapeutic supported meals/snacks  
  • Multidisciplinary team collaboration  
  • Transition planning  

The Emily Program’s Nutrition Philosophy endorses the inclusiveness of all foods and values the absence of food judgment. We understand the complex role food plays and the diverse eating situations life presents.  As such, we aim to provide nutrition and food-related experiences, education, counsel, and skills that enable an individual’s journey to a more mindful, flexible, balanced, autonomous, and sustainable relationship with food.   

We foster a Can Eat Culture, believing that individuals can positively influence their eating disorder behavior by engaging in staff-facilitated therapeutic supported meals and snacks.  Ultimately, a Can Eat Culture paradigm supports overall health and well-being, with a sense of freedom and true choice in finding ways to purchase, prepare, and consume food.  

As a dietetic intern, you will be involved in supporting clients during therapeutic supported meals and snacks and will be expected to promote and model eating in alignment with the Nutrition Philosophy.

What advantage would this internship provide me as a future dietitian?

The University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship – Eating Disorder concentration is one of the only dietetic internships in the United States that specializes in eating disorders and related issues.

This opportunity gives you the real-life experience of what it’s like to be a registered dietitian working in eating disorders treatment, working with clients of all diagnoses and at every stage of the illness, as well as other mental and physical health issues.

The incidence of eating disorders is on the rise. Fortunately, the options for treatment are growing. A registered dietitian specializing in eating disorder treatment will be in high demand because they can provide uniquely valuable services for eating disorder programming in treatment centers, hospital settings, schools, workplaces, community education, and many other areas.

One of the most important advantages of this dietetic internship concentration is the least tangible: a greater appreciation for the human condition. You will be called to draw upon—and discover among your peers—new reserves of patience, compassion, understanding, and acceptance.

What challenges might come up for me during this internship rotation?

Food and eating are central to all our lives. Meanwhile, the prevalence—and normalization—of disordered eating behaviors is on the rise in our culture. Given these realities, it’s no surprise that challenges and concerns arise when an intern actively participates in this rotation. Some of those challenges may include:

Discovering personal eating and/or body image issues

If an intern is struggling with their own food or body image issues, spending time with eating disorder clients can trigger one’s own eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. It is essential that you are aware of and are addressing your own food or body image struggles—and that you have a support plan in place if those problems arise during the rotation.

Unearthing personal preconceptions and bias

Our culture is rife with positive and negative preconceptions, prejudices, and biases based on a person’s size, weight, and appearance. We are all influenced by this cultural environment. To be effective with our population, you will probably need the support of preceptors and colleagues to explore, challenge, and revise some of your existing (if still unconscious) preconceptions and biases.

Discussing uncomfortable topics

Many clients in treatment for an eating disorder have a traumatic personal history or a challenging past that contributes to the eating disorder. You are likely to hear sometimes graphic conversations about domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide attempts, self-induced vomiting, self-harm, extreme exercise abuse, laxative, and drug abuse, and other serious mental health and physical health problems. You are likely to interact with individuals whose appearance has been altered by starvation or self-harm.

Taking It Personally

Emotions can run high for a client, especially before, during, and after a meal or snack. For example, a client may be experiencing high levels of anxiety, anger, sadness, fear, frustration, mistrust, and excitement when a meal is presented or eaten.

Sometimes, clients direct these emotions toward the dietitian or intern, blaming them for how they feel. You will need to work with your preceptor and colleagues to learn how to best manage the situation and not take it personally. You will need to develop and use skills like humor and helping a client reframe perspective.

It is important to remember that it is often a good thing when a client is able to express their emotions with a provider. It can be a sign that they trust the treatment team and are willing to allow the team to help express their emotions in a more beneficial way.

Of course, other unforeseen challenges may arise. We encourage interns to discuss any and all challenges with the preceptors.

What is expected of our interns?

All eating disorder concentration interns are expected to act in a compassionate and professional manner. This includes dressing comfortably yet professionally, arriving on time, meeting weekly with your preceptor at their clinical locations, and completing projects and assignments by the due date. We expect a complete commitment to the internship, our clients, and our personalized treatment approach.

We expect high motivation and a desire to help this population. We expect an ongoing willingness to learn, accept challenges, and grow in skill and compassion. We require that interns uphold the confidentiality of our clients, and abide by The Emily Program’s confidentiality, compliance, and human resource policies and processes.

Accanto Health provides gender-affirming, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive treatment. We are committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Accanto Health and would expect our trainees to embrace these approaches to care. 

Given the nature of the work we do in specifically treating eating disorders, applicants currently in treatment for an eating disorder, recently in recovery from an eating disorder, or in long-term recovery from an eating disorder should strongly consider if they can sufficiently separate their own eating disorder struggles from those of our clients in order to intervene with clients effectively, and whether this treatment environment is conducive to their overall wellbeing. Applicants with these histories are strongly encouraged to consult with loved ones and their healthcare professionals before applying.

To learn more about the nine-month University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship – Eating Disorder Concentration, visit the University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship page