Director of Nutrition Services Mary Dye, MPH, RD, CEDRD, LD/N and Director of Food Services Lissa Garcia, RD, LD/N  share part two of their series for cultivating recovery around the kitchen. Mary and Lissa continue to discuss ways to ensure that the family is providing a safe space around mealtime for eating disorder recovery. 

As families well know, kitchens and dining areas can become a battle zone when an eating disorder is present. Since they are so often such places of conflict, we need to prep them for the fragile early stage of returning home from treatment, when things as simple as the color of the placemats, type of milk and shape of the bowls can serve to increase urges to engage in maladaptive patterns or reinforce recovery oriented behaviors.

This is the second part of a two-part series (PART ONE) that discusses different facets related recovery around the kitchen.

Sensory overhaul

For some, the small change of accent colors such as pot holders and dish towels can make the space feel new and less familiar – this a good thing when you consider how pre-treatment the eating disorder felt at home. Burning a new candle scent, re-doing shelf paper, replacing drawer liners and re-arranging the cabinets are few simple ways to give a new sensory experience that demands observation and promotes awareness, helping us to develop new patterns and create fresh memories.

Reclaim the table as a place for peace

Promote calm at the table as much as possible. Some clients learn that busy patterns and bold colors put them on edge while others thrive on such aesthetic. Some find soft music helps them focus. Help to create a space that lessens tension and promotes a mindful experiences. This could mean removing clutter, using a favorite color or making a little place card that serves as a reminder of short term and long term recovery goals. It may mean investing in a flower arrangement or putting out placemats made by a cherished family member as an act of grounding and connection.

Change the view

When I ask clients about eating at home many can describe in great detail the view from “their seat”. Think of that seat and the view from it as the one the eating disorder grew accustomed to and sit somewhere different. Perhaps looking out a window as opposed to a mirror is less activating if body image is a struggle. Perhaps facing a different piece of artwork would serve as a welcome distraction when needed instead of looking to the one that is known so well. Perhaps sitting next to the family member who is of strongest support and farther from plate view of any who might spark comparison thoughts or judgements. This is often the toughest request of clients, as it means asking for others to change their positions, but it can make a significant difference at meal times.

Stock recovery-oriented food

Create a space for your loved one in recovery, not for their eating disorder. So often, well meaning family members stock the kitchen with foods they saw their loved one consume prior to leaving for treatment, thinking that it must be a favorite item. While this is well intentioned it can risk the loss of momentum built in treatment of broadening the diet and gaining insight into intentions behind food choices. In treatment we do a lot of work to explore and weed out preferences of the eating disorder from those of the client’s authentic self. A common conclusion many reach is that their eating disorder led them to believe they liked or disliked various things when their authentic self actually craves satiety, full nourishment and variety. Access to foods chosen by the eating disorder can lead to clients questioning their new found food freedom and flexibility; increasing urges to fall back into old patterns.

Remove items with overt diet messages. Honor new foods enjoyed by your loved one and try to avoid comparative talk such as “I’ve never known you to like meat”.  Keep in mind your loved one has an identity completely separate from their past or present food choices. Talk with your loved one and their dietitian to gain an understanding of what foods belong in the recovery oriented kitchen and what foods need to stay out, at least in the the early days back home.

Break the rules.

Not the food safety ones: those are very important. But do break the eating disorder’s rules. Have fun with food. Try breakfast for dinner. Pack a picnic in the yard with finger foods. Eat cake for breakfast. Charge head on at whatever food rules allowed the disorder to thrive. What was once a battleground can become a place of experimentation, joy, corrective memories and connection. Dance in the kitchen. Make a mess. Laugh and turn up the music. There is nothing the eating disorder hates more than the reclaiming of its territory. Take it back in supporting your loved one in the breaking of rules to protect that precious process of recovery.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

Please join us for “Setting Boundaries with Parents” presented by Clementine Briarcliff Manor Clinical Director Dani Small, MS, LMFT hosted by MEDA Networking with a Purpose and Monte Nido & Affiliates.

Family work can be one of the most challenging aspect of client care, but also one of the most rewarding. Appropriate boundary setting is integral to managing an adolescent’s reintegration back into the family system. Families are often scared and/or confused as to what type of boundaries will be well received by their child and it is the job of the treatment team to aid them in approaching boundary setting with curiosity and consistency. Another essential aspect of the team’s work is holding proper boundaries with the families themselves. This may be uncomfortable; however, it is absolutely necessary that we as professionals guide families with respect and honesty. Without honesty we are inadvertently perpetuating some of the same patterns that may impede a client’s full recovery. This presentation will explore these concepts and open up discussion as to strategies that will support appropriate implementation of this work.

In this presentation, participants will learn to:


Describe two strategies for teaching families emotional regulation skills to tolerate their child’s distress when faced with new, yet necessary boundaries

List two useful phrases of language for providers when having honest, and sometimes uncomfortable, discussions with families

Describe two strategies for providers to manage their own insecurities or discomfort when holding boundaries with clients and / or families


The presentation will take place on Friday, December 1, 2017 at 11:30am-1:00pm in Newton, MA. 1 CE credit and lunch will be provided! To join, please rsvp to Senior Professional Relations Manager Elizabeth Rozovsky:


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

Join us for First Wednesdays at OPC! Clementine South Miami Clinical Director Amy Sosa, PsyD will present “Treating the Whole Family: Applying Bowen’s Family Therapy to Eating Disorder Treatment with Adolescents” on Wednesday, May 3rd!

For our May edition of First Wednesdays at OPC, Dr. Sosa will provide an overview of Murray Bowen’s family systems theory, including his eight concepts of family therapy: triangulation, differentiation of self, nuclear family emotional system, family projection process, multigenerational transmission process, emotional cutoff, sibling position and societal emotional process. Interventions to improve overall functioning within the family will also be discussed with a specific emphasis on understanding the underlying processes of triangles in order to detriangulate family members.

Through this presentation, participants will be able to identify and describe Bowen’s eight concepts, identify the flow and pattern of triangulation and provide two strategies to detriangulate family members. Additionally, participants will be able to accurately explain one method to differentiate family members and effectively explain one experimental technique to engage and treat the whole family system.

Registration, lunch and mingling begin at 12 pm and the presentation will be from 12:30-1:30pm. 1 CE hour will be offered for: PhD, PsyD, LMFT, LMHC, LCSW, LPCC, and RD. If you would like to join OPC’s First Wednesdays on May 3rd, please RSVP to Luisa Benda at or RSVP here by Monday, May 1st.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram


angie-vietsClinical Psychotherapist and Eating Disorder Specialist Angie Viets, LCP has dedicated her career to helping others live a fully recovered life. In this week’s post, Angie has compiled stories from recovered professionals, including herself, that offer hope and inspiration to a life free of an eating disorder during the holiday season.

The holidays are a lot to manage. Travel plans, coordinating family gatherings, and the never-ending list of gifts—I feel short of breath just thinking about it. But we know, in addition to the “typical demands” of this time of year, struggling with an eating disorder makes it a million times more complicated. Most people don’t realize, like we do, just how overwhelming it is for us.

With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to hear from a few of us who’ve struggled and recovered from eating disorders. We’ve been where you are. We get it!

So, come, sit at the table—I’ve got a place for you right here next to me. No need to get anxious. There’s no pressure to eat mashed potatoes or green bean casserole. All you have to do is relax and open your heart. Since this is the season of giving, our gift to you is our collective stories. We prepared something we hope fills your hungry heart—a conversation among recovered friends about all that’s possible at the holidays when we are weighted down with an eating disorder.

I’ll start by sharing that I remember how I dreaded the holidays when I was immersed in my eating disorder—like hardcore dreaded them. It was strange to dread something I once loved so much. For weeks leading up to family gatherings, I would ruminate obsessively, strategically planning ways to eat the least amount possible without drawing attention to myself. I would tuck my scale deep into my suitcase to ensure I didn’t gain an ounce while I was back home with my family. My ever-loyal companion, the eating disorder, was buckled up in the passenger seat, and off we went.

Before I could even get to the door, I could hear laughter emanating from inside my grandmother’s home. My grandmother’s warm voice soothed me, “Darlin’, I’m so glad you’re here. Come in love.”

The familiar smells of home and family and love lured me in. My people were all there—but so was my eating disorder.

As we filled our plates, I couldn’t resist the gooey broccoli and cheese casserole—my favorite since childhood. The eating disorder growled at me as I filled my plate: “How pathetic, I knew you wouldn’t be able to stick to the plan!”

My anxiety was so out of control, that I don’t even know if I tasted the food, let alone heard my family reminiscing and relishing each other’s company. I wasn’t there anymore. Guilt and shame consumed me.

Fourteen years recovered, I’m happy to say that my eating disorder has been officially disinvited from any table. I’m able to connect and be present with my family, and can I tell you that broccoli casserole has never tasted so delicious. I’ll be honest, the journey to recovered was the hardest one I’ve ever traveled—but it’s also one of my most meaningful accomplishments.

Robyn, what about you. What were the holidays like for when you were struggling with an eating disorder? 

The holidays felt like a minefield, and I was just waiting for the explosion. Void of joy, dictated by what I ate, and made up stories of what people were thinking about me, I barely functioned. I was preoccupied with plans of how I would execute eating disorder behaviors if I needed and busy promising myself that next year would be different. The holiday season was bleak for both myself and my family.

Is there a memory that stands out to you?

I remember one December when I lived in London. I had been binging and purging around the clock for months, unable to stop. With a plane tickets bought, I was returning home to Australia to spend the holidays with my family. Every day leading up to the trip, I’d create grandeur schemes to lose the weight I had rapidly gained so that I would look “well” when I saw my family—each day I failed to fulfill it.

One short week away from returning home, I was bloated, deep in my illness and unable to stop my behavior, when my dad called.

“Are you all ready for the trip?” he gushed excitedly over the phone. I hadn’t seen my family for over a year, and I was missed. Silence.

I began to sob. Attempting to speak through my tears, “Dad, do you still want me to come if I’m fat?” My poor Dad grappled with the pain of his child on the other side of the world struggling to find reality. I was lost in the eating disorder.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that not only cripple the ones who have it, but also take the families hostage.

I returned home that year, void of the person I once was. My family still missed me, even though I was face to face with them.

What are the holidays like for you now that you’re recovered?

Oh my gosh, the holidays couldn’t be more different now. Today, fully recovered, it’s a stark contrast to that time in my life. I am present mentally and emotionally, with freedom of thought and grounded in reality. I fully enjoy the season with my family, without fear of retribution. With little thought about my body, I’ll not only eat the meal in front of me these holidays, but I’ll do it with sincere gratitude, enjoying every bite.

Jenni, what were the holidays like for you?

Thanksgiving—a day seemingly dedicated to food—was the worst. I remember forcing myself through each and every bite. But today, fully recovered, the holiday is a completely different story.

Since I have finally found meaning in a life without my eating disorder, I now celebrate what the holidays are truly about—family, friends, connection, and love.

Yes, there is still food—lots of it—from Halloween through the New Year. And, now, I am grateful for all of the festive parties, gatherings, and meals. I don’t have to restrict, because I know my body needs fuel to live. I don’t have to binge, because I know there will be plenty of leftovers. I can simply savor the moment and be thankful for my hard-fought health and happiness.

Jenni and Robyn, I appreciate you both for your willingness to be vulnerable and share your stories with us. The more we can all use our voices, get brave, and tell our stories, the more I hope we can inspire recovery for others. 

My personal hope for all of you reading this is that you can try and be present with your family and friends this year, and that you recognize the eating disorder has interfered in your life too much already. Tell the eating disorder, when it tries to take over, that it’s not welcome.

–  Jenni Schaefer, bestselling author of Life Without Ed; Goodbye Ed, Hello Me; and Almost Anorexic. 

–  Robyn Cruze, co-author of Making Peace with Your Plate. 

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram

Melissa_SpannOliver-Pyatt Centers Director of Admissions Melissa Spann, PhD, CEDS sheds light on some of the most frequently asked questions received by our admissions department. Thank you to the admissions team for sharing these questions and allowing us to provide some additional clarity on the at times confusing landscape of insurance and admissions. The entire Oliver-Pyatt Centers team is here to help guide you through every aspect of treatment and to support your loved one and family on the path to recovery. For any admissions related questions, please contact at 866.511.4325. 

Do you take insurance?
Yes! We accept and work well with most all insurance companies. One of our specialties is digging in really deep with every insurance policy to navigate the challenging nuances and come up with the best plan for each client.

We are in network with Blue Cross Blue Shield for all levels of care.

We are thrilled to announce we are now in network with Aetna for all levels of care. These in network contracts will help make our high quality care more affordable.

What does it mean to be an out-of-network provider?
Different insurance plans have different plan options to choose from. For some insurance plans, even when we are not in network, we have still have the ability to work with your insurance through the use of your out-of-network benefits.

What makes OPC different than other programs?
OPC takes an individualized approach to every client. Our philosophy is one in which we are emphasizing comprehensive care through medical, clinical, psychiatric, nutritional and family support. One of the cornerstones of our model, daily individual therapy, allows clients to develop a deeper therapeutic connection; it is through this vital therapeutic relationship that clients are able to delve into treatment fully and deeply for healing to occur. Our multidisciplinary team uses a bio-psycho-social-spiritual model to treatment – meaning, identifying the core issues that drive the eating disorder and addressing all of the co-occurring issues that may accompany it. Our treatment philosophy is centered around the idea of “If not now, when?”

How can I be involved in my loved one’s treatment even though I live in another state?
Your participation in treatment is critical to the overall process. We have weekly family therapy sessions via video conferencing, monthly family programming and as needed check-ins. For Clementine, in addition to all that was just listed, we also have family coaching, daily check ins, and bi-weekly family programming.

What can I do as a parent to advocate for my daughter’s benefits?
You are an essential advocate to your loved one’s treatment. There are so many ways in which family members play a critical role to long term recovery, navigating the challenges within our healthcare system is one. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has some incredible resources for parents on navigating our healthcare system, being an advocate, and articulating arguments to third party payers. I encourage every family to know their rights and advocate on their behalf. We are committed to helping you through this often challenging process.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

GretaGreta Gleissner, LCSW is a NYC-based psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders. In recovery since 2001, Ms. Gleissner has firsthand knowledge of the challenges individuals face in the eating disorder recovery process, particularly during transitions. In her writing, she offers ways parents can help support their child with an eating disorder.

When a healthy child gets sick, parents can usually find a fairly simple answer: Tylenol, amoxicillin, cough medicine. But when your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder, parents face a problem for which there is no immediate fix. Caring for and supporting your child with an eating disorder can be confusing and scary.

Parents attempting to support their child with an eating disorder may struggle with a sense of helplessness and frustration when unable to quickly restore their child’s health. While responsible for your child, you are not fully in control. Ultimately, it is up to your child to choose recovery. As parents, your task is to create an environment of support and information for your child, so they can begin to take responsibility for their own well-being.

But what if your child is not ready to self-motivate, and their health is in critical condition?

Sometimes the priority must be stabilizing a child at a treatment facility or medical providers, to manage the dire physical repercussions of starvation or purging. But medical stabilization is only the first step in the healing process.

Once your child’s physical health has been addressed, a long road still lies ahead. Psychological and emotional healing does not necessarily happen in tandem with the physical restoration. Parents often feel an understandable impatience at this point, and an urge to accelerate and steer this stretch of the journey. But you must accept what they cannot do–i.e. “fix the problem”–while recognizing all the ways you can be supportive as their child undertakes one of the most challenging and scary tasks: letting go of their eating disorder.

One parent with adolescent recovering from an eating disorder took refuge in the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

What You Can Do:

Get Informed: It is hard to have empathy about something that feels foreign, so familiarize yourself with eating disorders. Seek out information, get educated. Research the experts in the field. Find approaches that resonate with you. Then share this information with your child so they can understand the ramifications of the eating disorder. If they hear it enough, they may begin to understand, and decide to turn towards health.

Connect: Turn to your co-parent, or another family member or loved one, to discuss decisions and vent. The irritability, explosions, despair, and/or silence that your adolescent may exhibit when in the throws of their eating disorder can be baffling, heartbreaking, and infuriating for you as a parent. It is important to have someone to talk with about your feelings, as well as to feel a sense of partnership in making decisions.

Prioritize Self-Care: Remember the oxygen mask on an airplane technique: you can only effectively care for your child when your own needs are being met. Eat balanced meals. Get appropriate amounts of sleep and exercise. Engage in activities that feel nourishing and joyful for you. Model a healthy lifestyle for your child.

Practice Compassion: Offer yourself and your child compassion. Guilt, blame, and shame do not create the gentle conditions that best serve healing. Frame the unhealthy behaviors your child engages in not as “bad behavior” that warrants reprimand or punishment, but as symptoms of a disorder that reflect the pain they feel inside, and call for love and solace.

Cultivate Trust: Give your child every opportunity to trust you. Your child is likely experiencing tremendous shame about their eating disorder, which compels them to retreat into silence and not speak their truth. Let your child know they can tell you when they purge or are feeling fear about eating, and that you are trying to understand–even if you cannot ever fully understand. It is so important for a child to feel safe to describe aloud their fear and pain. Speaking truth takes the power away from the eating disorder, which thrives in secrecy and silence.

Believe in Recovery: It is imperative for parents to believe recovery is possible. While it is not going to be easy or linear–your child likely will make progress and then fall into unhealthy patterns again–that is just part of the long journey of recovery. Model for your child an unwavering faith that they have the courage and strength to attain health, and that stumbles are not signs of failure. Especially in times of setback, it is crucial to offer unconditional support and emphasize your belief that recovery is within reach.

Supporting your child with an eating disorder can be challenging. If you are struggling to help your child suffering with an eating disorder, please consider reaching out to us for help. We offer support for parents. We help care for your child – in college, still at home, even as young as 12 years old.


Parent “Tool Kit” from the National Eating Disorder Association:

Your Dieting Daughter: Antidotes Parents can Provide for Body Satisfaction, Excessive Dieting, and Disordered Eating by Carolyn Costin

8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt CentersClementine adolescent treatment programs and Monte Nido, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

Joel-Jahraus-MDMedical Director of Oliver-Pyatt Centers Joel Jahraus, MD, FAED, CEDS specializes in medical management of patients with eating disorders. He has been a board certified physician for over 30 years and is a recognized expert on diabetes and the medical complications of eating disorders. Dr. Jahraus shares his experience of treating patients with comorbid disorders. He explains how he uses a systematic approach in order to establish a strong rapport with the patient and then is able to assess and treat the complex case.

Over many years of treating medical complications of eating disorders I have watched an interesting trend of patients claiming to have more and more medical comorbid disorders. In fact it is not uncommon for me to see someone who says they struggle with food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose deficiency and gluten enteropathy. This creates a complexity that is challenging to say the least. It requires a well-coordinated effort between medical and mental health clinicians to truly evaluate the validity of the medical illness claims and their integration with anxiety, depression and other comorbid mental health disorders as well as the eating disorder itself.

Fortunately relatively definitive and objective guidelines are available to assess each of the comorbid illnesses. Yet too often patients come in either self-diagnosed or without a complete work up and have fully come to believe that they indeed have a food allergy or IBS. In addition there are often family issues related to medical disorders where the individual is told to even expect that they will have these disorders due to family history of the same. Given the typical challenges of refeeding with gastrointestinal symptoms and heightened anxiety this can easily throw the patient’s recovery off course. I have found that there are several caveats that will set the stage for a better-informed patient and family that often mitigates some of the challenges of refeeding. Education is power and food is medicine so I begin with that premise. Then I use a systematic approach to build trust with the patient as we progress through a workup:

1. I validate the patient’s concerns and reassure them that I will be sure to evaluate their physical concerns and help them understand physical versus emotional symptoms and how these symptoms are related to each other. I provide examples of emotional symptoms causing physical illness like stress and anxiety causing high blood pressure or stomach ulcers. I want them to understand that I am not dismissing their symptoms as “just emotional” but rather that finding their true cause will allow us to help them feel better whatever the cause.
2. I review the work up (or lack of one) regarding each condition and then outline what is needed to be complete and have an accurate diagnosis. I also tell them that even if they do have a physiologic medical illness it may well improve with achieving a healthy body weight and maintaining healthy nutrition and healthy eating habits while eliminating eating disorder symptoms.
3. I order appropriate consultations and testing as indicated and review the results with the individual outlining both medical and psychological treatments that will help them including the use of stress relaxation and medical and psychiatric medications whether prescription or over-the-counter meds including nutriceuticals and complimentary therapies.
4. I assure the individual that we will proceed through treatment with regularly scheduled appointments for follow up so they don’t need to worry that they are simply being dismissed.

With this approach I have had significant success in evaluating and treating these increasingly complex cases. We all know how rewarding it can be to have an individual so restricted by the complex medical and psychiatric illnesses associated with eating disorders to suddenly find new life and relief from the burdens of physical and emotional pain and worry!


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt CentersClementine adolescent treatment programs and Monte Nido, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Article Inspiration

Posted on June 09, 2016 by StayConnected

Join us in reading inspirational and informative articles we have cultivated from across the web. If you have found an article you feel is inspirational, explores current research, or is a knowledgeable piece of literature and would like to share with us please send an e-mail here.


Anxiety, Fears, and Things That Go Bump in the Night Psychology Today

How Weight Information Can Increase Overeating/Binge Eating Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld

Yoga May Be Good for the Brain The NY Times

If We Treated Ourselves The Way We Treat Our Children Kantor & Kantor Law

How Anorexia Causes a ‘Starved Brain’ Dr. Jen Gaudiani

Understanding Anorexia Nervosa in Males Psychology Today

Binge Eating and Binge Drinking: Same Origins  BEDA

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookLinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Kelli_Malkasian_PsyD CEDS_Director of AftercareDirector of Aftercare for Oliver-Pyatt Centers Kelli Malkasian, PsyD, CEDS helps to prepare clients to reintegrate back into their lives in a sustainable way. In her writing, she shares the importance of aftercare planning in the recovery process.

“Aftercare planning needs to pay reverence to all aspects of a client’s life and recovery.” When I heard Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt say those words, I thought there were never truer words spoken.  Even if a client makes amazing changes to her eating behaviors, has full medical and physical restoration, is motivated and attends the best program in the country, they still run a high risk of relapsing without a comprehensive aftercare plan.  We, as clinicians, have to understand what needs, triggers, and barriers to recovery exist in our clients and their environments, as well as, think about what we can do to prepare them for reintegrating back into their lives in a sustainable way.

Seeing firsthand the difficulties that clients face when they step out of residential treatment was very eye-opening for me.  I considered Dr. Oliver-Pyatt’s statement heavily throughout my time working in the IOP/TLP program and took that statement into my current role as the Director of Aftercare.  Now I work with our clinical teams to keep the aftercare plan in mind throughout treatment, both as a guide for treatment planning and for considering important factors to be addressed as a client prepares for and finally discharges from our programs.  Further, we work together with the outpatient teams, families, and the clients to help everyone see beyond the goal of symptom cessation and to look at recovery as an all encompassing process.  Factors such as school/work, relaxation, fun, socialization, environment, access to resources, family support, spiritual restoration, and support for co-occurring disorders/struggles all need to be considered in the treatment and aftercare planning.

It is my objective to make sure that each client has a full wrap-around aftercare plan that meets their unique needs and takes into consideration barriers that may exist.  Understanding and addressing these barriers early on is necessary.  Such barriers may be a lack of understanding of the complexity of the illness or treatment process, lack of access to services or financial resources, lack of willingness to participate in treatment, barriers to motivation or recovery, or lack of an appropriate support system.    We address these barriers and incorporate exposures to assess and practice their skills, build additional multi-faceted support into the aftercare plans, and help clients create a meaningful life that is congruent with their recovery needs.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram


Director of Admissions at Oliver-Pyatt Centers Melissa Spann, PhD, CEDS shares the importance of family therapy in the eating disorder recovery process. She explains how OPC uses Family Friday as a way to bring the family system together in order to aid the client in her journey to recovery.

As the first Friday of the month rolls around, I become increasingly excited for OPC’s Family Friday. I have the incredible opportunity to meet and talk with all of the families who participate in the Family Friday programming. Like most things at OPC, this event began because we saw a need; the event was birthed out of a desire to help provide families with psychoeducation, support and some TLC as their loved one participates in treatment.

Family Friday is it not an easy day to participate in. It begins with psychoeducation talks, information on medical complications of eating disorders and some background on intuitive eating. As the day progresses, family members experience group family therapy and a meal with our dietitians and recovery coaches to experience identifying hunger fullness cues and practices of mindfulness. Finally, we end the day with a family therapy session.

Every Family Friday I take a poll by asking the group of loved ones: “ Who loves family therapy?” As my doctoral degree is in family therapy, I have always been interested in systems work. For the most part, participating in family therapy is not on most people’s Top 10 to-do lists. Family therapy, nonetheless, is an integral part of intensive treatment and certainly a necessary part of the recovery process. It provides the space to explore our emotional experiences with our loved ones so we can feel heard and so we can listen. Family therapy lays the foundations to have our feelings validated by those closest to us. We need to give voice to all members of our family system and allow them space to discuss how our experiences are impacting them. Family therapy is essential in the healing process. We encourage families to use the time while their loved one is in treatment to explore both what’s happening now and the underlying pieces that led to this time.

Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt encourages and mentors clinical staff to push ourselves with the motto: “If not now, when?” This statement provides an overarching theme to family therapy work at OPC: now is the time to have challenging conversations, to explore feelings and to dive deep.

Looking forward to seeing our families next Friday!


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Anna_k_and_Abby_G_opc_blogAssociate Clinical Director of Monte Nido Anna Kowalski, LMFT and Assistant Clinical Director Abby Gold, LMFT offer a fresh perspective in working with families to support their daughter’s eating disorder recovery. Anna and Abby share how they help families to gain a deeper understanding of their daughter’s eating disorder.  

… I frequently hear clients say that the Eating Disorder is “too big” for them to battle, that the ‘hold’ the eating disorder has on them is “too strong,” a feeling that clearly aligns with the group beliefs that their daughters are being held captive by their eating disorders.

I offered the parents the same perspective we teach clients – that the eating disorder is an owned yet split-off part of self, not an outside entity; that the more their daughters engaged in eating disorder behaviors, the stronger the voice telling them to do so became, until eventually that voice took on a life of its own. When we see this split-off part as the “eating disorder self,” and then identify the “healthy self” as the part that knows behaviors like vomiting, restricting, or purging are not good things to do, we create space for a conversation between these two selves – a conversation that paves the way for integration. As the healthy self learns from the eating disorder self, it eventually gathers enough strength to be able to do the job of the eating disorder self in a more adaptive way. And this, I emphasized to the families, gives the daughters their power back, thus allowing the parents and family members to get out of what would otherwise be a losing battle. Instead of feeling defeated by the eating disorder, clients are left empowered by knowing the work is within them.

But now I’ve told a group of distraught parents that there is nothing they can do to ‘fix’ their child or ‘make them get better.’ Telling parents they can’t fight off the intruder doesn’t leave much hope. So I told a story about my high school boyfriend.

I would sit on the phone for hours, crying over this boyfriend, over how he treated me and how he hurt me. And witnessing this, my parents were naturally extremely disapproving of him. They fought him, called him names, and that made me furious. I was not going to let him go; I loved him. But as soon as my parents joined with him and accepted that being with him was my choice, I was only left with myself—with my desire to be with him and with my knowing that he was awful. I had to then make a conscious choice in the fight with myself, not my parents, knowing that I too realized he was not the one for me.

The laughter in the room at this moment was palpable. Humor on this journey – in addition to all of the honesty and hard work—is necessary for the family to recover.

I talked with the parents about the way that the eating disorder, though maladaptive, has allowed their daughters to cope. We discussed how we use Thank You Letters and Gratitude Letters to the eating disorder in order to let go and realize there are other coping styles that are much more effective and not destructive to their bodies and souls. The integration of the perfectionism, drive, and tenacity that served the individual’s eating disorder is re-harnessed into their healthy self, and is used for the healing.

This was a humbling moment for all of the families in the group, and an opportunity to begin to learn how to slow down and look at how to support their loved one in getting their needs met in a healthy way. It is my hope that these families, clients, and everyone else out there affected by an eating disorder understands that the journey to a recovered life is not about eradicating the eating disorder, but about reintegrating that part of the Self. This concept had never been clearer to me than when Carolyn Costin and I were at a conference in Chicago. She said, “I would have never taken a pill to get rid of my eating disorder.” If she had, it could have eradicated the amazing drive she used to create Monte Nido.

This article was written by Anna Kowalski and Abby Gold of Monte Nido & Affiliates, and also featured on the Mental Health Screening site.


For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Terina_Lopez_blogRegional Outreach Manager of Florida Terina Lopez was honored to speak with a mother who shared her first-hand experience and perspective of how an eating disorder can impact the individual and the family.

What behaviors should families be aware of within the home and at meals? What are the warning signs your loved one has an eating disorder?

JR: Your loved one may show different physical and emotional signs; for example, he or she may begin dieting or eating less, experience symptoms such as weak skin, thin hair and an inability to combat physical illness; or she may appear sad or withdrawn with increased feelings of anxiety or judgement toward herself. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that the signs and symptoms can and will be different for every person; there is no specific behavior to look for, only a change in behaviors.

What was helpful in getting your loved one to commit to treatment?

JR: Remember you don’t have to do it all by yourself; work with your support systems, family, friends, and treatment teams to gain support and assistance in explaining the need for treatment to your loved one.

Other general words of advice include: Try to understand how your loved one is feeling. Listen. Attempt to explain the process and what is happening through different means; for example, our family doctor showed my daughter a picture of a healthy brain and one of an individual struggling with anorexia. This process allowed her to hear the facts, see the decompensation, and understand the need for treatment.

What was successful in treatment (i.e. family therapy, phone calls from clinical team, family Friday)?

JR: Family therapy, on the phone and in person, was pivotal in my daughter’s recovery. It allowed us to work on our communication while she was in treatment, and allowed us to prepare for and better manage the transition of her leaving treatment.

What advice would you give parents whose loved one is in treatment?

JR: Go to your own therapy. Educate yourself. Understand what the disease is, what is looks like, how to treat it, how to work with and communicate with those struggling with an eating disorder.

What support do parents need/do you suggest they get while their child is in treatment?

JR: Take care of yourself. Go to your own therapy because it is so difficult to go through this process. There can also be problems in other areas of the family; remember the eating disorder serves a purpose that can be keeping the family together or driving the family apart. You need to understand the entire family unit and how it has been affected and the role the eating disorder has played within your family. I recommend individual, couples, and family therapy, with a therapist who is knowledgeable about eating disorders, for all involved.

To read the first post in this series, visit here.

Additional Recommended Reading and Support Groups

Mothers Against Eating Disorders / #MarchAgainstED (advocacy group)
Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder (book)
Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness (advocacy group)

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram