Butterfly launches first national guidelines to support the eating disorders peer workforce
New guidelines aim to remove barriers to help eating disorder peer support reach its full potential in Australia and improve outcomes for those living with an eating disorder and their carers.
8 February 2024
Butterfly Foundation has launched the Eating Disorders Peer Workforce Guidelines to provide guiding principles for eating disorder peer work and clarify minimum education and training standards.
This follows growing recognition of the positive impacts that peer support can have on outcomes for people with eating disorders and their carers as well as significant benefits for peer workers themselves .
There has been increasing recognition of the need to combine learned and lived experience across all areas of the mental health service system.
Butterfly’s new peer workforce guidelines, funded by Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, are the first to specifically address eating disorders – a group of serious mental illnesses that affect over a million Australians in any given year.
Through extensive consultation and co-production with lived experience and other sector expertise, the guidelines address the challenges that many eating disorders peer workers currently face, including inconsistency in remuneration, inadequate formal training, limited learning and development opportunities and challenges to maintaining personal wellbeing.
In response, the guidelines provide advice, checklists and practical resources to support the development and professionalisation of the peer workforce as vital partners in the system of care for eating disorders.
Dr Sarah Squire, Head of Knowledge, Research and Policy at Butterfly Foundation, who led on the development of the guidelines, said: “There is a thriving volunteer and eating disorder peer workforce in Australia, however, in the development of these guidelines, we spoke to many people who came up against several barriers in accessing peer work. We hope that the Guidelines will help to overcome these challenges and support the future growth of this workforce to ensure peer support can be used to its full potential in the eating disorder sector in Australia.”
Rachael Duck, Peer Mentoring Program Manager and Lived Experience Workforce Lead at Eating Disorders Victoria, said: “The eating disorder peer workforce is rapidly growing and becoming embedded within mental health organisations, community and tertiary based services across Australia. In my role as manager of a peer-led program, I recognise how sharing lived experience can offer hope and challenge stigmatising views of eating disorders. It is important to have resources in place that lead this important work. These new guidelines provide structure and an understanding of the unique role of peer-led support; contributing towards building a robust and engaged workforce”.
Rhiannon, who became a peer worker at Butterfly Foundation after her own lived experience of an eating disorder, highlights the benefits of peer guidance during eating disorder recovery: “Recovering from an eating disorder can sometimes feel impossible, but having someone with lived experience by your side to demonstrate what recovery is and how they’ve overcome their own eating disorder can make such a difference. Now being able to use my lived experience to walk alongside others on their own recovery journeys is incredibly rewarding.”
This is also reinforced by Clare Dehring, Peer Mentoring Program Senior Advisor and Peer Worker at Eating Disorders Victoria, who says: “Becoming a peer worker at EDV has opened up a world of opportunities and reinforced the skills I learnt during my own recovery, which includes regularly reflecting on my own wellbeing. Engaging in my peer role, has supported my ongoing relationship with food, and my body. I learn something new from every person I support, whether it be a different perspective, or lightbulb moment about my own lived experience and recovery from an eating disorder.”
The Guidelines follow the Department of Health and Aged Care’s funding of research to understand the landscape of peer work in the treatment and management of eating disorders. The Guidelines were developed in collaboration with a sector Working Group, including a multi-stage lived experience engagement strategy and a review of existing lived experience guidelines and frameworks.
Butterfly thanks all of the organisations and individuals who generously contributed to the development of the Guidelines, including Working Group Co-Chair Shannon Calvert.
To access the Eating Disorders Peer Workforce Guidelines and practical resources visit: https://butterfly.org.au/health-professionals/eating-disorder-peer-workforce-guidelines/
For more information about Butterfly’s Peer Support Groups and Programs visit: https://butterfly.org.au/get-support/how-we-help/
Harriet Potter, Communications Manager, Butterfly Foundation
0451 837 044 firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor and producers note
Please include the following Helpline details in all media coverage and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders.
Help and Support
Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:
- Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or email@example.com
- Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23
- For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14