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Debbie Berlin shares her experience as a Social Worker supporting people with Eating Disorders.

Hello everyone, 

Let me introduce myself. My name is Agnes Kopij.  I am a 4th year student at Wilfrid Laurier University and I have been a volunteer with NIED for just over a year. I am a part of the blog and social media team. I hope you all enjoy our upcoming interviews and blogs.  We’re so excited and happy to bring these important discussions to you. 

Now I’d like to introduce you to Debbie Berlin (BSW, MSW, RSW). I interviewed her in recognition of National Social Worker Month. Debbie also has training and specialization in health navigation for Eating Disorders, psychotherapy, crisis intervention, couples and family mediation, and more. She practiced clinical social work in the division of Haematology/Oncology at The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) for 17 years. She was previously the Executive Director of Sheena’s Place until 2020.

 Questions and Answers:

What made you want to be a Social Worker?

I was a camp counselor and unit head for many years and I knew then that I wanted to work with kids and be a Social Worker.


What methods of assessment do Social Workers use? Are these guidelines or mandated?

From my training at SickKids, Social Workers tend to use a biopsychosocial assessment model. 

No – these are not mandated.


As Eating Disorders are so complex and can have comorbidities, how would you say that your care differs for those who do and do not have an Eating Disorder?

My care with any person, focuses on the person’s history, challenges and strengths. My approach in care does not differ (for those who have Eating Disorders or not) – help your client identify what they want to work on, meet them ‘where they are at’ and help them get to where they want to be. All of that said, if they are not motivated towards change, then I will do my best to find creative and ‘outside the box’ ways to provide care.


How do you feel about the benefit of a multi-disciplinary approach and what are the barriers to having this team approach?

There are no barriers to a multi-disciplinary approach – we often need the support and guidance of other health care practitioners and I rely on them in my practice.


What are the ages of people who come to you for support?

17 and older.


What does your care look like for caregivers of people with eating disorders, are they included in your sessions?

Yes – I often work with caregivers/parents and help them with health/hospital navigation, self-care, and boundary setting.

Why is this type of support so crucial for a patient’s recovery?

Caregivers need to be well in order to take care of people – I also see this with clients who are caring for parents with dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It is not uncommon for caregivers to become unwell and experience ‘burnout’. Caregivers need support, even if they resist it!


How does the care you offer differ from other professions? (ex. psychologists)?

I employ different modalities based on my ongoing training as a social work clinician – trauma informed care, emotion focused therapy, family-based therapy, and crisis intervention strategies.


Do you feel that Social Workers have the training they need to treat those with Eating Disorders? If not, what would you suggest could be done about that?

Social Workers need specific training and I wish this was offered more in BSW/MSW university programs. I think that it would be great if organizations specializing in Eating Disorders could offer more opportunities for learning, i.e. conferences, workshops and seminars.


Thank you so much to Debbie Berlin for this enlightening interview and for helping us honour Social Workers this month! 

Link to Debbie’s website:

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