Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Client Experiences of Transitioning from Adolescent to Adult Mental Health Services while Battling Anorexia Nervosa: A Thesis Research

Transitioning to adulthood is a unique time for many people. That age between 18-25 is an in-between – not a dependent adolescent, yet maybe not always a fully independent adult either.

There are so many things going on at this time of transition, all at the same time, and everything is different for everyone – there’s really nothing that’s “normal”. That transition period for emerging adults who are battling eating disorders can sometimes, but not always, be even more difficult. For people with eating disorders who are accessing services from our health care system this time may also mean a change in service providers (like counsellors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, etc.) which is an added stress. And with all the other change going on, maybe stability might be more beneficial.

In B.C., eating disorders services change from child and youth to adult at age eighteen. Also at eighteen people are facing changes in multiple areas – like school (high school to university/college), employment (maybe moving from part-time to full-time work), living arrangements (sometimes moving away from home), and so on. Finding new services during this time can be difficult and there can be waitlists and service disruption – all of which can make it difficult to even bother continuing with services at all.

There isn’t much research on this topic, especially for eating disorders, especially about how it is for the people who are going through these transitions. The goal of my study is to explore the impact that transitioning from child and youth mental health services to adult mental health services has on people battling anorexia nervosa in our province. I’m hoping to gain an understanding of the experience of being an emerging adult, navigating a complex mental health system, and all the while fighting an eating disorder.

I think it’s important to understand the contextual factors of emerging adulthood (all those changes) and how they are impacting the transition as well. To look at this transition holistically is to take into account all the effects that could be going on. I hope to find out what helps and hinders transitions to continuing clinical care. Lastly my study intends to explore how people using the services would dream up an ideal experience of transition that is more needs-led (individualized) and not service-led (generalized).

I am still looking for participants to help me with this study and share their stories. Your insight may help others who have yet to go through this experience. My hope is this research can be used to inform services and professionals to effectively support people battling eating disorders.

If you, or someone you know, may be interested in participating please email

Carrie Bove is a third year Counselling Psychology graduate student at Simon Fraser University. Upon completion of her degree she hopes to continue to work as a counsellor in eating disorders services or substance use services. She enjoys music and photography and hopes to integrate these passions into her practice. Travelling is also on her “to do” list.

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