Practitioners' conference – Working with eating difficulties and body image disturbance (Counselling)


Students with eating and body image difficulties commonly present to the University Counselling Service requiring support, therapy and interagency liaison with NHS colleagues. In HE counselling services are well-paced to assist students with this issue in a preventive and responsive way. At the University of Birmingham we offer one to one therapy and a yearly group for students with eating issues. This is a challenging area with particular issues affecting young adults in transition from home and between services, requiring training for counselling staff to help students overcome what can be a serious, sometimes life-threatening, impairment to health and wellbeing whilst at university.

Summary of initiative

A conference was held on 19 November 2014 at the University of Birmingham with a multi-disciplinary audience of practitioners working with young adults in educational and related settings to enhance their professional practice and services available to students.

Who was involved?

  • Sue Anderson (Deputy Head of Counselling Service) - Conference Lead
  • David Mair (Head of Counselling Service)
  • Jo Elkington (Student Support Co-ordinator)

What was the impact?

Over 80 delegates attended the conference from all over the UK and Ireland. Two internationally recognised speakers, Dr Janet Treasure and Pam Virdi, addressed issues of research, evidence-based practice and recovery. In addition 8 workshops were delivered on a range of practitioner issues by medical, psychiatric, dietetic, psychotherapeutic and service-user colleagues, including one by Sue Anderson on running groups for students with eating difficulties in a university setting. B-eat, the national eating disorder organisation, was also represented as well as a specialist bookshop.

Delegates’ feedback showed exceptionally high rating of the professional content of the conference.

The conference generated income which in turn will enhance the CPD needs of the counselling team, in accordance with the objectives of the Student Support services.

Lessons learned

The conference helped the counsellors to stay abreast of developments in this highly complex area of clinical work, to engage with other services and practitioners in disseminating best practice and to enhance collaboration with NHS colleagues to provide competent and safe services for students.

Feedback examples

"A very informative, well organised and useful day."

"I'm just emailing to say how much I enjoyed the conference yesterday - and how much I learned from it."

"I thought it was a fascinating and very well organised conference."

Learn more

You can visit the following web pages for more information on this initiative:

  • Counselling Service
  • B-eat Eating Disorder charity