Founded in 1993, The Emily Program has become nationally recognized for our compassionate and personalized approach to eating disorder awareness, treatment, and lifetime recovery. We’re here to help people of all ages and genders make peace with food.
The History of The Emily Program
In 1993, psychologist Dirk Miller, Ph.D., L.P., opened a private eating disorders treatment practice after a distinguished career in the field. Previously, he had started the first hospital-based eating disorders treatment program at South Bend (IN) General Hospital. He had also worked with the University of Minnesota’s intensive bulimia program and started an eating disorders group at The University of St. Thomas.
“I had great experiences,” he says, “but I didn’t feel as good about treating eating disorders in a hospital setting as I did in outpatient settings. The goals of a hospital didn’t coincide with the needs of the eating disorder clients I knew. Mental health issues are very different than physical health concerns and require different methods and settings.”
Dr. Miller named his new practice The Emily Program, after his sister, Emily, who recovered from an eating disorder. The Emily name has come to signify the core values behind our successes: personalized care for all individuals struggling with eating disorders.
The Emily Program Timeline
Dr. Dirk Miller opens a private practice called The Emily Program in a former St. Paul fire station.
Gretchen Goff, M.P.H., coordinator of the first intensive bulimia treatment program, becomes Miller’s partner.
Goff retires. The Emily Program hires our first staff person, therapist Lori Peiffer, Ph.D.
The Emily Program adds two additional therapists and our first administrative staff person, Shirley Gottwalt, and a consulting dietitian begins offering services. Our St. Louis Park office opens on S. Highway 100. The St. Paul office moves to Gordon’s School Building on Dayton Avenue.
With outpatient groups expanding, Jennifer (Gottwalt) Smith, R.D., L.D., becomes our first staff dietitian.
Our team, now comprised of six therapists and a dietitian, holds a day-long retreat to plan The Emily Program’s first intensive program, and consider expanding into other outpatient services. Our St. Paul offices move to the Court International Building on University Ave.
Our first satellite office opens in downtown Stillwater, Minnesota.
We begin operating the Anna Westin House in Chaska, Minnesota’s first residential eating disorders treatment facility. Our second satellite office opens in downtown Duluth, the largest city in northern Minnesota. To accommodate our growing programs and staff, we purchase and begin to renovate the former Park Midway Bank in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood, creating our new St. Paul office and agency headquarters.
Our third satellite office opens in Burnsville, a Twin Cities suburb. We move into our new St. Paul headquarters and even hold meetings in the old vault!
The Emily Program purchases the former St. Andrew Kim Catholic Church, across from the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. We renovate the building to host the new Anna Westin House, doubling treatment capacity to 16.
In response to steadily increasing demand for treatment, our Duluth team moves into new, larger offices. The Anna Westin House opens in its new, expanded facility—the renovation wins a design award from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. We also purchase the Children’s Home Society and Family Services historic Toogood Building, down the block from our St. Paul headquarters, and begin renovating it to house more treatment, including an expansion for our adolescent programming.
We open our partial plus lodging options in St. Paul, St. Louis Park, and Seattle. Hillside, West End, and Neptune Lodging are the first of their kind for eating disorders in Minnesota and Washington, offering adults a comfortable, home-like place to stay while participating in Minneapolis-St. Paul or Seattle intensive programs. Responding to demand in Washington, we expand our Seattle office and open in Spokane. Spokane is our second Washington location. We also open our East Metro, MN office in September.
We expand our Burnsville office in February to provide more treatment options, including family and couples counseling along with additional adolescent programs. In June we partner with Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders. Due to high demands for treatment in the South Sound area of Washington, our third Washington office opens in Lacey, WA. Spokane services expand to offer partial plus lodging and we begin plans to open 24/7 residential care in Ohio and Washington.
The Emily Program opens an outpatient office in Cranberry Township outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that offers individual, group, and family therapy services. In June, The Emily Program-Residential opens in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, offering adults 24/7 eating disorder treatment in a warm, inviting, renovated historic home.
The Emily Program introduces partial plus lodging in Cleveland, providing adults with a safe, comfortable place to stay while participating in Ohio intensive programs. A second partial plus lodging option opens in St. Paul.
We expand levels of care offered in Washington with the opening of our 24/7 residential facility in Seattle. We also roll out an integrated eating disorder/substance use disorder intensive day program in Minnesota.
Today The Emily Program’s clinical and administrative staff has grown to over 500 people, offering an unusually wide range of outpatient, group treatment services, intensive programs, and residential care for eating disorders and related problems.
Dr. Miller believes the program is unique because our foundation is outpatient services. He says, “We didn’t start as an inpatient program and develop outpatient services to support that model. The reason is pretty simple: most change occurs as an outpatient. We live our lives as ‘outpatients’. Ultimately we must apply what’s learned to a life of recovery that we live outside the treatment program.”