August 2016 - Monthly News & Tips
IN THIS ISSUE
"I LOVE The Emily Program for the hope, respect, support, and wonderful care they bring to all who are affected by eating disorders." -An Emily Program client
Eating disorder treatment can be especially challenging because of the disorder’s complex tangle of biological, psychological, and emotional origins. People struggling with eating disorders can feel less compelled to address the problem than their loved ones, may resist treatment, and suffer relapse at a high rate. All of this can leave families and sufferers alike feeling confused and frustrated by the persistence of the eating disorder.
As the neuroscience comes into focus, we are beginning to better understand the neurobiological, or brain based, features of eating disorders. These features and the associated brain “wiring” can make changing behaviors difficult and overwhelming. As a field, we are increasingly tailoring treatments to address these underpinnings of the illness in order to promote recovery and healing.
We know the singular tactic of trying to talk someone out of an eating disorder is not effective. Susceptibility to eating disorders is deeply rooted in a person’s biology. Neurocognitive features that often accompany eating disorders, including impulsivity and obsessive-compulsive traits, may contribute to its tenacity. These newer understandings of eating disorders may be disconcerting because the implications are profound, suggesting that it can be extremely difficult to choose to make the behavior changes necessary be healthy.
The good news is that the brain is highly neuroplastic, meaning it can rewire itself to adapt to new behaviors. With consistent therapy and practice, individuals can break out of the eating disorder cycle and develop healthier habits. Exposure to, and practice with, behaviors that promote health and healing are challenging and can feel overwhelming and impossible to master, but this is how rewiring the brain occurs. Practice and support makes these different behaviors possible and sustainable.
Together with psychological treatment focusing on how to make positive choices and understand things differently, exposure to and practice of health promoting behaviors can lead to lasting change.
While recent advancements in neuroscience have much to contribute to our understanding of eating disorders, researchers and clinicians must continue to explore the science of eating disorders so we can advance knowledge and treatment options.
Mark Warren, MD
Chief Medical Officer, The Emily Program
Eating disorders are not a fad or a lifestyle choice. Instead, they are serious mental illnesses with potentially life-threatening consequences. Eating disorders are complex and are caused by biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Though sociocultural messages about weight and beauty can certainly impact a person's image, they cannot cause an eating disorder.
However, a person with an eating disorder can choose to seek help and treatment. the road to recovery involves a lot of hard work and involves much more than simply deciding to eat and become better. In most cases, the eating disorder has become a person's primary way of coping with intense emotions and difficult life events. In order to heal from the eating disorder, a person needs appropriate treatment and support regarding medical monitoring, nutritional rehabilitation, and learning and practicing healthier ways to manage stress.
Paul Huff, Eating Disorder Technician, Anna Westin House, St. Paul, MN
Paul Huff joined The Emily Program as a volunteer to help write and edit advocacy letters before joining our team full time in the summer of 2012 as an eating disorder technician (EDT).
Growing up, he developed an interest in the field because his aunt worked as an occupational therapist with clients struggling with eating disorders.
“Based on her stories, I became really curious about how people could get such a distorted view of themselves," he said. “I later learned that eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness, and I figured getting involved in rehabilitation was one way to make a meaningful difference in the world.”
Today, Paul spends his days supervising adolescents and young adults in our Anna Westin House residential treatment program and providing therapeutic support around the clock — during meals, snacks and free time. At mealtimes, he helps clients use coping skills around eating-disordered behaviors and aids them in processing emotions that come up around food.
He also assists in a variety of groups throughout the week, which include cooking, body image, mental health education and family programming. Once a week, his team also takes residents to nearby restaurants to practice eating in real-world environments.
Paul received his bachelor’s in honors psychology from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2011 and went on to complete his master’s in Counseling Psychology at the University of St. Thomas.
Learn more about Paul and why we think he stands out!
TEP: How is an EDT crucial to the treatment team?
Paul: In a way, EDTs are the “eyes and ears” of the treatment team. Since we spend the most time interacting with residents, we’ll often see patterns and get insights that we pass along to a resident’s therapist and dietitian. They then take that information and develop effective treatment directions that we as a team implement.
TEP: What's your secret to building trust with clients?
Paul: The key is just being authentic, open and not taking yourself too seriously.
TEP: How do you motivate uninterested clients during mealtimes?
Paul: Although it’s easier said than done, it usually comes down to reminding clients about their goals. Sometimes it’s short-term goals like being done with the meal, going outside or having leisure time. Other times, it means weighing the pros and cons of disordered behaviors with long-term goals, such as being successful in college or living independently.
TEP: Any interesting hobbies?
Paul: I love to travel! In May of this year, I traveled around England and Iceland. It was wonderful seeing castles up close, learning about history firsthand and meeting people from around the world!
In Spokane, WA:
Wednesday, Aug 10: Begins at 6:30 p.m. at 2020 East 29th Avenue, Suite 200 • Spokane, WA 99203
In St. Paul, MN:
Tuesday, October 11: Begins at 6:30 p.m. at 2265 Como Avenue • St. Paul, MN 55108
In Cleveland, OH:
Thursday, October 13: Begins at 6:00 p.m. at 25550 Chagrin Blvd., Suite 200 • Beachwood, OH 44122