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Do dietitians feel that they have had adequate training in behaviour change methods?

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To investigate dietitians’ perceived adequacy of pre- and postregistration training in a range of behaviour change techniques, current main approach to dietary treatment and perceived usefulness of future training in five core behaviour change modalities.Method

A questionnaire was designed and distributed to all dietitians registered in the BDA membership base (n = 4202).Results

Three hundred and ninety-four questionnaires were returned. The majority of these respondents had obtained their degree since 1982 (77%), since when courses were more likely to have contained a psychological component. Despite the fact that facilitating dietary behaviour change is a key dietetic role, respondents felt that they had not received adequate training in behaviour change skills in their dietetic training. Training was perceived to be most satisfactory in active listening skills, but this was perceived as barely adequate. Training was perceived as particularly poor in: applying theories of cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT); motivational techniques; group work skills; and in both theory and skills of relapse prevention. Although 40% of respondents reported receiving explicitly psychologically based training, skills-based training (mainly counselling) was reported by only 25% and was limited by being mainly short 1- or 2-day courses. Overall, where further training was obtained it was perceived to be more adequate than that reported within preregistration dietetic training.Conclusion

Respondents felt that they had not received adequate training in behaviour change skills in their dietetic training. The application of CBT, motivational techniques and relapse prevention was perceived as particularly deficient in training and the majority of respondents felt that future training would be useful or very useful. In the current health service climate, where evidence-based practice is crucial for all practitioners with the emphasis on improved quality of care with measurable outcomes, research must be funded and undertaken to support attempts to improve dietitians’ effectiveness as behaviour change agents.

Keywords: behaviour; change; cognitive behavioural therapy; counselling skills; dietitians; motivational interviewing; training

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-08-01

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