Professional harassment

I have been shut down, harassed, flamed, condescended to, and criticized on the Internet before. If you put yourself out there and say anything real you have to expect this. When this happens, I have to  believe that if I remain reasonable and I'm confident on the facts that those observing the interaction will at least know that even if they don't leap to my defense. I'm an adult, and I can take care of myself.

But sometimes I wonder if people really know what goes on. 

Right now, a forum that advertises itself to be for eating disorder clinicians and researchers on LinkedIn has become a safe place to be unprofessional and I think that is not good for the eating disorders field. I'm pretty sure that the conversation going on there is not being widely seen as it started quite benignly with one of my posts praising a recent news article. I would not add more eyes, or flame, to that fire except that the moderator for the forum is disparaging F.E.A.S.T. in a way that will live on and really needs to be clarified. Our Executive Director and others have corresponded with the moderator but have been rebuffed.

I don't believe that in 2013 it should be unremarkable on a forum for ED professionals with 1900 members to say that the current science on eating disorders can be dismissed, that psychoanalysis is an appropriate treatment for children with eating disorders, and that adoption is at the root of eating disorder symptoms in a child you've never met. I said so, politely, and I am now the target of ugly and untrue accusations.

It is also safe on that forum to accuse a user of breaking rules of the forum that don't exist, violating a "sacred space," and you may be praised by the moderator for insulting another member. We so need professionalism in this field. I have been told I am not a professional and shouldn't be in the group, and others are not being allowed in the group now (this was not true until this controversy, BTW). I have left the group, myself: I don't know what "professional" means but this isn't it.

I have seen this pattern over and over and it still perplexes me. I know what it is: cognitive dissonance and the fiery end to some really bad paradigms. But I wonder what would happen if the public knew and professionals of goodwill felt "safe" to speak up against it. A few do now, and I celebrate them. Most are too afraid.

The forum administrator has accused me of sharing posts outside the site, not aware herself that her group is public. She acknowledged this yesterday but with no apology for her wrongly accusing me of misconduct. Well, the site is public and LinkedIn's rules are clear about sharing and linking to the site.

Judge for yourself. And if you are a member and make a comment or write to the administrator please keep in mind that we are all on the same side (of eating disorder patient recovery) and that civility is SO important. I don't expect to "win" in a situation like this. But I continue to hope that the eating disorder field will do a better job of self-regulation. I'm weary of being told "don't give it attention." That attitude just leads to more harassment. It should not be all right to harass people in this way, or to call it "professional" to mischaracterize an organization that is working to help patients and the field.


  1. Thank you so much Laura and I am so very sorry you are the target of sword and sabre rattling. In the end health care in the US is consumer driven and as a consumer evaluating the different treatment modalities and responses on that professional forum. Who to choose for treatment for a sick young child, the answer is loud and clear. Or should I say the answer is NOT loud, but it is eminently clear. It is temperate, moderate, caring and compassionate. And it comes through quite well that the FBT professionals who have responded on that discussion board are clearly the ones to choose.

  2. I skimmed the thread. I don't really see what the issue is about. Heritability of eating disorders is probably around 50-60% (studies show between 30-80%, because so much depends on your starting sample and assumptions). So, that leaves the other half for environmental factors. Certainly growing up in a bad environment predisposes individuals to mental health issues, but it is not causative, just like genetics aren't causative. They are both, always, part of the picture--to varying extents between different individuals. For some, it might be a 20/80 split, others, a 30/70 split. Environment is a broad term, it doesn't just mean parents, or friends. It is all sorts of things. I don't know why people are so hungry to blame something. The causes are complex and certainly vary among individuals.

    Saying "brain disorder" doesn't exclude environmental effects, though, so I'm not sure what saying that has to do with the argument. Studies have shown that early negative environmental effects actually change the brain. That's not really surprising, is it? Of course it is a brain disorder: it is a behavioural and thought disorder, it is certainly not a heart disorder or a lung disorder. But, like most medical issues (though certainly not all), causes are complex.

    I think using the word "cause" is too simplistic. Perhaps "possible contributing factor" is a better way of putting it.

    Also, while introspection is clearly important, I am skeptical of Freudian or pseudo-Freudian interpretations of causality, which I seem to encounter a lot among some clinician circles. Blaming everything on the environment or on what happened during the first few years of life is also hugely simplistic and we know it is not the whole story. (Also, Freud =/ science. Interviewing a bunch of women in Vienna =/ scientific method.) Sorry if this seems random, I just felt some of that thread went into some kind of hidden desires/unconscious desires kind of stuff (maybe I misread, though).

    Environment =/ parents, but parents are part of it.

  3. Tetyana

    The whole argument got a bit more personal than that but I am wholeheartedly with your Freud =/science thing. Is it only me that gets nervous when male psychoanalysts start talking about guns and triggers?


  4. Tetyana, the issue for me on that thread was that reasonable dissent resulted in ad hominem insults, circling of "professional" wagons, and the Internet's signature brand of shunning called "I've had emails about this."

    The moderator/owner accused me of violating that space by pointing another member of the public (the person they were talking about) to the thread. I've still not received any apology for that, or even acknowledgement. I'm being told that "professionals" are a special group with certain standards and yet that thread includes some of the worst science literacy and professionalism.

    I don't need that forum and have no desire to nose into a group where I'm not "qualified" or wanted. But to call what they're doing "professional" is, well, puzzling.

  5. The use of the term "sacred" on the thread is also comical, since the comments posted by members are so catty and nasty.

  6. I thought I had looked in on an Attorneys discussion group" for a moment. Sheesh.....

    But seriously, readers who are parents choosing treatments and providers will no doubt be able to evaluate things for themselves. For their child.

  7. Honestly, the attitude of some of those who posted reflects exactly why many parents will shop around looking and hoping against hope for a different diagnosis. I am saying this from my own experience. It was more palatable and understandable to accept my daughter's diagnosis of depression and anxiety - as it seems to be acceptable that these run in families and are often linked to a brain chemical imbalance - than to accept that the dysfunction experienced by my child somehow precipitated this illness in 6 short weeks no less (corresponded directly to cross country season- her first - not a major loss or trauma). Much to my daughter's and families detriment we spent a precious 2 months looking for the underlying cause and treating her for the above mentioned problems to no avail - in fact it was terrifying as she was only getting worse and it was clear to my daughter, my husband and myself that the therapist was looking for one of them to blame me. Fortunately, neither my very ill daughter 13 year old daughter or my husband was willing to do that even with me out of the session. Long story short 2 months later - with the help of an amazing FBT, a dietician who is invested in FBT and the hundreds of visits to the Feast website and our daughter is weight recovered and working back to normal.

    In addition, I would just like to say that it is obvious that the professionals who were lashing out at Laura and the Feast webite could not have possibly spent any real amount of time on it. What I have noticed from the beginning is that although FBT is highly recommended - in the end it is all about what is helping pave the way for recovery and if it is working then it is the right way for the patient.

    Laura, thank you so much for all you are doing. Your efforts have gone such a long way to helping those who are suffering as well as their families.

  8. Laura, you are very brave and we appreciate what you do. Thanks for being the voice and for speaking out when others are not comfortable doing so.

  9. There appears to be a real need for education about what "evidence" is and the randomized controlled trial among psychotherapists on LinkedIn. I'm glad for the efforts on FEAST to educate our community, also on EdBites, and it seems like it could make sense to broaden that effort!

  10. Well done !! Jill Cohen Lcsw

  11. We all need to work on being tolerant of others whose thoughts and opinions are different than our own. I am sadden that certain individuals have harassed you or been rude to you. I also want to encourage you to remind your members of F.E.A.S.T. that they have been insulting and rude to others too. Laura, your response to your members rude and insulting behaviors was "They have a right to be angry!" I hope everyone learns an important lesson here, we are all human beings who deserve respect and have the right to state our opinions and beliefs, even when different from yours. Laura, you are amazing! I may not agree with everything you believe, but I believe in you. Lets all work on tolerance and acceptance!

  12. I wish that the discussion on the thread could be brought back to the original topic. Early onset. Which was the subject matter of your post Laura on Link'd in, and the ABC News Article. There is very little attention paid to early onset...


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