What is an RD anyway?

Posted on September 29, 2014 by StayConnected

Director of Nutrition Services Mary Dye, MPH, RD, CDN, LD/N shares an informational post about the real difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian and clears up some of the confusion about these two differing titles along the way!


I get asked all the time why I call myself a “Dietitian” if I claim to have a non-diet approach. Why not just say “Nutritionist”? What’s the difference anyway? First off, diet doesn’t have to be a dirty word. All the word actually means is “habitual nourishment.”  

I consider myself an expert in nourishment – studying both how we respond to food and food messages in our culture, and how food works in our bodies. I can also write a pretty stellar medically indicated meal plan. I just refuse to use the word diet in the restricting, shame-cycling, and crave-inducing manner to which people often associate it.

So what’s the difference in the titles various “nutrition experts” use? Pretty significant, actually. About a year ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND, which is formerly the American Dietetics Association (ADA)…confused yet!?) felt there was so much public confusion over what is a registered dietitian (RD) and what is a nutritionist that they decided we RD’s could just add an “N” to the end of our credentials and be called registered dietitian nutritionists. In my opinion, it has made things even more confusing but that is why I am trying to clear it all up. It is also why I’ve just been sticking with RD in my own title. The “N” is totally optional at this point.

RD and RDN are interchangeable and both are legally protected titles that can only be used by practitioners authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the AND. Put simply, they are the food and nutrition experts, translating the science of nutrition into practical evidence based solutions for healthy living. The expertise, training, and credentials that back a registered dietitian nutritionist are their defining feature. All RD/RDN’s have taken years of science and nutrition courses. This equips us with the knowledge of the human body, digestion, absorption, and nutrients to prepare us to tackle any food and nourishment issue that comes our way. We then spend a full year in a dietetic internship learning among practicing RD/RDN’s and putting our knowledge to supervised use to prepare us to sit for our national certification exam through the CDR. Once we pass that, we’re ready for a life in the field putting evidence based interventions to use. We are required to keep current with the latest nutrition science and are re-credentialed every five years based on our ongoing learning plans and continuing education, all verified and approved by the CDR.

So, as Dietitians like to say, every RD/RDN is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a RD/RDN. The title “Nutritionist” in itself is not legally protected or nationally credentialed. Often, a Nutritionist is someone who completes an undergraduate or graduate degree in nutrition and practices in a non-clinical setting. They typically may work as skilled research scientists, life coaches, wellness educators, professors, or food service consultants. Just be aware that some individuals who market themselves as “Nutritionists” have very little or no training in nutrition. You can often spot these individuals promoting or selling things like nutritional supplements and diet books. Before you take any nutrition advice be sure to check out the educational and professional background and training of the individual supplying that advice. In this day and age with so much sensationalized nutrition information and misinformation on the internet it is more important than ever to research the sources.

All of the clinical nutrition services staff at Oliver-Pyatt Centers are highly experienced Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and newly introduced Embrace, a binge eating recovery program and Clementine, a residential program exclusively for adolescents girls please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Posted in Our Team

Bright Yellow Beach Ball

Posted on September 18, 2014 by StayConnected

 Dr. Bertha Tavarez, Clinical Director of Clementine, Oliver-Pyatt Centers residential treatment program exclusively for adolescent girls speaks to the benefits of experiential therapy techniques to be utilized within a therapeutic relationship as well as among professional colleagues. 


I was recently invited to present at the 10th annual Latin American Eating Disorder Conference in Monterrey, Mexico. I was encouraged to present a clinical topic that was “different”, “new” and “cutting edge.” I decided to create a presentation on experiential therapy techniques and how to incorporate them into eating disorder treatment. Soon, my creative wheels were turning, and I planned on several therapeutic demonstrations, work samples, and props that may facilitate warm up therapy exercises.

I combed through a labyrinth of Walmart aisles looking for the perfect prop that I could use as an ice breaker. The prop needed to be accessible enough to quickly flow through a large audience with the power to break the monotony of hours of lecturing. Did I mention my presentation was at the end of the day? In a moment of inspiration I saw it! Among a myriad of seasonal toys I spotted a bright yellow beach ball with a large smiley face stitched on. The plan was to throw the ball at a person in the audience, asking them to state their name and one word that best represented their inner self before passing it to another person, and another, and so on.

The next morning, I boarded an airplane with my bright yellow beach ball safely stowed. After the beach ball was scanned for explosives residue (true story!) I was on my way to the conference, softly whispering talking points to myself as I took in the sights of the bustling city of Monterrey. I arrived in time to sit in on a presentation on the epigenetics of eating disorders. As I marveled at the research studies being presented, I stared down at the bag containing my ball, and became flooded with thoughts about how my bright yellow beach ball paled in comparison to talks of ventricular enlargement.

After a welcoming introduction, I approached the podium with a mixture of trepidation and resolve. I stated that no presentation on experiential therapies can be devoid of experience and action, and with a brief explanation, and a flick of the wrist, I tossed the bright yellow beach ball into a sea of audience members. Soon, the room lit up with a choir of voices. “Ana, Intelligent!”, “Carmen, Loving!”, “Sandra, Patient!” For days these people were introducing themselves by their titles and affiliations, but for one moment they connected on a universal human level with the help of one unsuspecting prop.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and our newly introduced Embrace, a binge eating recovery program and Clementine,a residential program exclusively for adolescents girls please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), subscribe to our blog, visit our website, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Our Team
What actually happens in an admissions department? Director of Admissions Melissa Spann, PhD is pleased to introduce you, our readers, to the who, what, and when of Oliver-Pyatt Centers’ Admissions.
First, an introduction to who is in the admissions department and their favorite part of Oliver-Pyatt Centers:
Chanelle Alexander has been at Oliver-Pyatt Centers for three years. She currently works as Oliver-Pyatt Centers’ Administrative Assistant. She appreciates interfacing with clients from their very first call. Chanelle loves having the opportunity to hear the transformation in individuals through the admissions process.
Jenny Castellon is an Admissions Coordinator and has been at Oliver-Pyatt Centers for four years. She is completing her masters degree in social work. Her clinical background is in caregiving. Her favorite part of working at Oliver-Pyatt Centers is when the clients and families we have been working with arrive and she is able to meet them in person.
Jessica Gomez is an Admissions Coordinator and has been with Oliver-Pyatt Centers for over two years. In addition to her work at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, Jess’s background is as a case manager and mom of two! Jess’s favorite part of Oliver-Pyatt Centers is our individualized treatment approach.
Anais Torres  is an Admissions Coordinator and has been with Oliver-Pyatt Centers almost a year. She has a masters degree in psychology and has worked in the mental health field for years. Anasis’ favorite part of Oliver-Pyatt Centers is our holistic approach to treatment. 

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD – that’s me! I am the Director of Admissions. Prior to stepping into this role I was a Primary Therapist at Oliver-Pyatt Centers and have worked as a therapist in other treatment programs nationally. I love that everyone at Oliver-Pyatt Centers shares a common vision and goal. What I love about my job is that there isn’t really a “typical” day. I have the unique opportunity to interface with many people on a daily basis. I feel fortunate that I often have the chance to answer the first time someone is placing what is often the most difficult phone call to make – the call to decide if they should seek treatment. I have the opportunity to talk with people, listen to their challenges, and provide support through this process. Our goal is to provide support, consultation, and a therapeutic hand during every interaction we have. My days are filled with these interactions, in person visits from individuals and families, and working with the clinical teams to provide additional support in in any way I can.

In the admissions department, our goal is to help clients, families, and providers navigate the challenging decision to seek treatment. We believe our intimate environment is most effective for the treatment of eating disorders. We are committed to working with you to make treatment possible.

During the admissions process, the potential client will be asked to complete our admissions packet (application, intake questionnaire, release of information, and medical evaluation forms). Once submitted, your questionnaire will be reviewed, and with your permission, we will contact your outpatient treatment professionals. We will assist you with the timing of your medical evaluation, and an intake assessment will be scheduled. We are here to talk with you every step of the way from insurance questions to what to pack on your journey to Miami.

Whenever you need us, we are here. Please email or call us anytime, we are looking forward to speaking with you.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please subscribe to our blog, visit our website, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Our Team

Meet Our Team: Dr. Tali Yuz

Posted on August 07, 2014 by StayConnected
1. What is your name and what are your credentials?
Tali Yuz, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist
2. What is your background (brief introduction)?
I was born and raised in Aventura, FL. I am very close to my family and friends and love being back in Miami after two years in the cold Chicago weather! I went to the University of Florida for my undergraduate degree (Go Gators!) and received my doctorate degree from Nova Southeastern University. I completed my internship and post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University’s Counseling and Psychological Services and have always enjoyed working with the college and graduate school aged population. I have a dear friend who struggled with an eating disorder for many years and was always drawn to learning more about her experience as I started my training to become a psychologist.
3. What does a typical day look like for you at Oliver-Pyatt Centers (OPC)? 
I don’t know that there is a typical day at OPC, but most mornings if I am not running group I am checking e-mails, writing notes, calling providers/family members, or completing an insurance review. The entire staff in Azul then eats lunch together which I find to be a wonderful break in the day. My afternoons are spent seeing patients, running a group, and also spending time in the milieu.
4. In your own words, describe the OPC philosophy.
You are loved and accepted from the moment you walk in the door. OPC is a place where women come to heal and grow to become the people they are meant to be without their eating disorders. Women are taught new skills in a supported environment and are given the opportunity to practice in a non-judgmental place so they are fully equipped to handle what they face when they leave. 

5. How does the team at OPC work together?
The team is in constant communication about each patient and each discipline collaborates to ensure that treatment is most effective. We have formal weekly meetings and also frequent informal check-ins with one another on a daily basis. Working within a close, multidisciplinary team is a hallmark of OPC. 
6. What is your favorite thing about OPC?
I can’t choose one! My favorite “things” about OPC are the incredible staff who have become like family to me in a short time, the amazing and courageous patients who I feel fortunate to know, and the laughter. Despite all of the hard work and struggles, both the staff and the patients always find time to smile and laugh. 
7. What are three facts about you that people do not know?
My name means “morning dew” in Hebrew, my sister and I are first generation Americans (our mother from Paris, France and our dad from Haifa,Israel,) and I can do the human pretzel! 

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please subscribe to our blog, visit our website, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Our Team

We are delighted to share a post from Clinical Director, Intensive Outpatient Program, Dr. Kelli Malkasian regarding the importance of continuing with a lower level of care after comprehensive treatment. Dr. Kelli Malkasian is clinical psychologist with 10 years of experience working within the field of eating disorder treatment at a variety of centers and levels of care. Kelli began at the Oliver-Pyatt Centers three years ago as a post-doctoral resident and Primary Therapist in the comprehensive program and has since became Director of the Intensive Outpatient Program for approximately two years. Her passion and joy in work come from seeing clients shed their eating disorder identities and develop whole, sustainable, and meaningful identities which is why she loves working with the women in the IOP and TLP programs.


When residential, PHP, or as we call it comprehensive treatment is required to treat eating disorders and other co-occurring disorders it can be a long and tiresome process. So much physical and emotional work occurs during this process that often clients look forward to the “break” they imagine will happen after treatment. However, upon discharging and as reality is setting in, most clients also experience a sense of anxiety and fear about leaving the safety of the protective and caring environment that comprehensive treatment provides. Clients need this protective “bubble” and level of structure, monitoring, and support to initiate the process of recovery and to take the first huge leap towards a life without an eating disorder. However, some of the hardest work comes up after the comprehensive level of treatment, when the client is put to the task of generalizing what he or she has learned to his or her lives outside of treatment.

Enter intensive outpatient programming (IOP) and other step down programs such as the transitional living program (TLP), both of which are offered at OPC. Stepping down to a lower level of care is a very beneficial process in offering the structure and support needed to help with the challenging work of integrating recovery into one’s life, or for some going through a process of revamping their lives to better support recovery. Recovery is never a perfect process and the reality is that sometimes relapse happens. However, research and in my experience working at this level of care, we know that relapse is much less likely to occur if clients participate in step-down programs, such as IOP or TLP and follow the treatment team’s recommendations.

Providing clients with a feeling of safety, community, and an individualized level of structure allows them to develop confidence in their ability to recover, to enhance their identities outside of having an eating disorder or being a patient, and to navigate taking responsibility for their recoveries. These strengths can only come with exposure to opportunities that challenge them with the freedom to make pro-recovery choices. Additionally, with the support of the IOP and TLP treatment team, if slips or lapses do occur they can be easily caught and used as opportunities for learning and growth, further protecting the recoveries that many of these women have worked so hard to establish. At an outpatient level of care it can be much more difficult to catch and redirect slips or lapses and in the fragile time immediately following comprehensive treatment it is essential to have this additional support.

I have often used the following analogy to describe the necessity of IOP and TLP:  One would not spend months tirelessly creating a beautiful painting and then send it in its raw state out into the world before the paint dried. You would let it dry and seal it with a protective sealant first, right? IOP and TLP are that sealant over the dried paint. IOP and TLP help you to bring your work of art into the world which is full of things that could damage it, but because it is well set and protected, it is safer and better prepared.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please subscribe to our blog, visit our website, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Our Team

Meet Our Team: Megan Bendig

Posted on July 22, 2014 by StayConnected


1. What is your name and what are your credentials?
Megan Bendig, Senior Primary Therapist in Casa Verde; MSW, RCSWI

2. What is your background (brief introduction)?
My professional background is rooted in residential eating disorder treatment. Prior to coming aboard at OPC, I worked for a residential ED center in Birmingham, AL which is where I’m from. I also completed my internship there during graduate school at the University of Alabama. (ROLL TIDE!!)

3. What does a typical day look like for you at OPC?
One of the reasons I love OPC is that this is a very difficult question to answer – every day keeps you on your toes! Senior primary therapist is a new role within our organization so each day comes with new challenges and opportunities to aid in the healing process of our women. I wear various hats, one of which is that of primary therapist to two to three of the women in Casa Verde. I meet with my clients daily for individual and family psychotherapy. Additionally, I supervise or oversee the care of 2-4 Casa Verde women which includes weekly case management sessions. These sessions are truly unique and address the in the moment needs of each woman… whether it be a general check in or a snack exposure to a fear food. I also run body image group and oversee the Mindful Movement Program.

4. How does the team at OPC work together? How does your role overlap and differ with other roles?
The team at OPC is unbelievable – I’ve never experienced a more inspired group of women (and men!) I believe the key to our team’s functioning is that each member puts our women’s needs above all else. In working from this perspective, the rest seems to flow naturally!

5. What is your favorite thing about OPC?
I cherish the moments in our work that allow us to meet our clients as humans – not as treatment provider to treatment receiver. My favorite thing about OPC is that this mindset is infused in our day to day operations. For example, I consider myself to be creative and I find it incredibly meaningful to be able to infuse creativity into my work with our women. Another example is how we as a staff interact with the women outside of our professional context. I’m always up for a game of scattergories or banagrams and love being able to relate to our clients in a way that is lighthearted, social, and non-threatening.

6. What are three facts about you that people do not know?
I was born on the 4th of July. My brother, who was three at the time, thought the fireworks were for me! The start of football season is my favorite holiday (that counts as a holiday, right?!) I love DIY projects and crafts. 

Posted in Our Team


1. What is your name and what are your credentials?
Stephanie Diamond, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Clinical Director of Casa Azul.

2. What is your background (brief introduction)?
Growing up I had a few close friends who struggled with eating disorders. One of the main forces that drew me to the study of psychology was witnessing the depths of their struggles and feeling powerless in helping them. I received a masters degree in counseling psychology in 2003 at McGill University in Montreal, and moved to Miami in 2005 to pursue a doctorate at the University of Miami. Throughout my training, my interest in working with women’s issues and eating disorders never waned, and I continued to seek out experiences that would enhance my knowledge and understanding of eating disorders. I found Oliver-Pyatt Centers in 2009 while applying for fellowship positions and the rest is history!

3. What does a typical day look like for you at OPC?
I try to start my day with a quick round upstairs saying good morning to all of the women and staff in Casa Azul. Then it’s right to work! My days are fast-paced and my to-do list is usually long! Mornings involve administrative tasks, email/phone calls, and meetings with primary therapists and other team members to discuss the patients. Lunch time is typically spent in a meeting to plan programmatic changes, discuss admissions, or have some case consultation time. Afternoons consist of individual meetings with patients, phone calls to families and outpatient providers, and documentation. If I have a window of time, I try to squeeze in a game of Bananagrams or Scattergories with some of the women (I don’t often win.) My day ends with troubleshooting any clinical issues that may have arisen during the day. Before I leave I again round with the women to wish them a peaceful night. 

4. In your own words, describe the OPC philosophy.
The OPC philosophy is grounded in fostering mindfulness and intuitive living. It is through the development of mindfulness and intuitive skills that the patient can shift toward trust in self and away from the eating disorder. We work with each patient, see her as the unique individual she is, and help her to connect/reconnect with and honor her true self. This requires developing trust in others and ultimately, trust in self. A goal is to help each woman become aware of what has been driving her eating disorder, and to help her learn how to identify and meet her unmet needs. Full and true recovery is possible when trust in self is established and when needs can be adaptively met. 

5. How does the team of clinical directors work together? How do your roles overlap and differ? What does your role look like within your own casa?
Each week the clinical directors meet to ensure we are on the same page and that the programs are run consistently across houses. We also brainstorm ways to make our programs even better! Our roles and duties are the same, and yet we’ve all been told that each Casa has a unique vibe. 

6. What would you say is the personality of your casa?
Calm, nurturing, friendly, efficient.

7. What is your favorite thing about OPC?
I can’t just pick one thing! So I will cheat and give you my top two; the staff, who are like family to me, and the privilege of witnessing many women’s transformative healing processes.

8. What are three facts about you that people do not know?
1. I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. 2. I am fluent in French. 3. I love to play golf!

9. Any additional information you want to share with our readers?
I feel lucky to work at a place and with a team that I would confidently refer my closest friends and family to, if they ever needed this type of care. 

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please subscribe to our blog, visit our website, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Our Team


What is your name and what are your credentials?
Melissa McLain, PhD, CEDS – Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist

Please give us a brief description of your background.
Growing up as a ballet dancer, I was surrounded by eating disorder and body image issues from a young age. Since eating disorders were an issue that I had been aware of, I made them my concentration area while in graduate school. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and I quickly learned that many mental health professionals were not willing to take them on. However, the more I studied and worked with eating disorders, the more I became passionate about helping individuals struggling with them.

As such, I completed my internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California Davis as the Eating Disorder Program Coordinator. In this role I found that much of my work on campus was referring students to more intensive treatment centers where they could get the help they needed. I found myself wanting to work at such a place myself where I could really “dig in” to help on the ground level.

I met Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt nearly six years ago and was in awe of her passion and vision for creating an individualized treatment program. As a result, it wasn’t all that difficult for Wendy to convince this “California girl” to relocate to Miami to work at the soon-to-be Oliver-Pyatt Centers. It has been such an honor over the past years watching as the program has expanded and grown – all while maintaining a small, intimate, individualized feel. I am incredibly proud to be a part of OPC.

What does a typical day look like for you at Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
I think I have the best job at OPC! As Clinical Director of Casa Rosada my work day consists of a fabulous combination of individual, group and family therapy, staff supervision and support, programmatic development and oversight and marketing and outreach, both locally and nationally. Most important to me is the clinical work – meeting weekly with every woman staying in my house. In knowing them individually, it allows me a relational grounding that helps as I oversee their care amidst our multidisciplinary team.

In your own words, please describe the philosophy of Oliver-Pyatt Centers.
Step One – get to know, and love, the person in front of you who is in need of help.  Step Two – do whatever it takes to help them to recover. I consider myself a fierce opponent to any eating disorder dwelling in someone I’m working with. I fight hard to make sure the women that step outside of Casa Rosada are fully equipped to take on the “hostile” recovery environment that awaits them.

What would you say is the personality of your casa?
Casa Rosada was the original program that began OPC and we are proud of it….we are proud to call ourselves the “pink ladies”! However, as proud as we are of our individual identity as a “casa,” all of our houses are warm, comfortable and welcoming. All of the staff are incredible; we all make time to assure that someone’s experience at OPC will be an amazing one regardless of what house they are placed in.

What is your favorite thing about Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
I love that when I get up every morning I have a new opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of someone that I care about. It is a gift that I cannot imagine ever getting tired of.

What are three facts about you that people do not know?
1. I am really quite afraid of the birds that nest in the trees outside of OPC every spring (they are very  squawky and scary, if you ask me, and they really do fly directly at your head!) 2. Chocolate covered pretzels are my favorite snack at OPC. 3. Most of the staff know that I would love to get a therapy dog! Hopefully sometime soon!

Is there any additional information you want to share with our readers?
One of my favorite quotes: “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart” -Confucius


Posted in Our Team

Meet Our Team: Carrie Hunnicutt

Posted on May 20, 2014 by StayConnected


What is your name and what are your credentials?
Carrie Hunnicutt, MA

Please give us a brief description of your background.
I was born and raised in a small town in Connecticut and graduated from Western Connecticut State University’s Ancel School of Business in the early 1990’s. The day after graduation I moved to Tucson Arizona, and received my Masters in Counseling in 1995. Having successfully avoided a “real job” for five years after college, I jumped into the workforce as an educator and volunteer coordinator at Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. Shortly thereafter, I landed a job at Sierra Tucson, introducing me to a career of a lifetime. I was able to be a part of and witness what healing and recovery looked like, I had access to and support of incredible professional teachers and mentors. In 2000, I moved back to Connecticut and worked at Renfrew Center for a few years, which exposed me to a facility dedicated to treating women with eating disorders. I found myself back at Sierra Tucson by 2004, this time focusing on relationship development with clinical professionals in the NYC Metropolitan area, and stayed until mid-2013. Mid-career, I took a leap – quit my job and did some consulting; one company was Oliver-Pyatt Centers. I came on fulltime as the Director of Marketing, and can’t believe my good fortune to be in this dream job.

What does a typical day look like for you at Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
I typically begin my work day early, by 7:30 a.m., by checking email that has come in overnight while having my coffee. Usually by 9:00 a.m. I begin phone meetings, which range from supervision to planning for upcoming initiatives or events. My role touches on many aspects of our business, from supervising and supporting the Social Media Marketing Manager and Alumni Program Manager, Corporate and Event sponsorships, some event planning, budgeting, supporting the Outreach Managers in helping them determine areas of focus in their territories based on data analysis and trends, project management, sales operations, communications, and more. Occasionally I travel to a conference or down to Oliver-Pyatt Centers. One nice part of my job is the proximity to many people I work closely with; three or four of them are within an hour of my house, so getting together for a meeting or a lunch is always a possibility. I am often walking around my office with my old school headset if I’m not at my computer working on a project.

In your own words, please describe the philosophy of Oliver-Pyatt Centers.
Since I am in Marketing, I could easily rattle off the philosophy at OPC! Yet in my own words, it would be even simpler. Love. When I began consulting, I asked one of the pillars of OPC, Director of Business Relations Liz Mershon, what made it so special. She said, “We love our girls until they can love themselves. And then we love them some more.” Every person at OPC comes from a place of love of what they do, who they do it for, and who they do it with. I’ve never seen anything like it and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of it.

How does the marketing and outreach team work together? How do your roles overlap and differ? 
We work very closely together. It is really like a venn diagram with many areas of overlap and a lot of “dotted lines.” I am fortunate to work closely with my friend and colleague Director of Outreach Ibbits Newhall; she and I work in tandem on a daily basis. While in the Marketing Department our roles are very different, we interact regularly and work collaboratively on projects. It’s a real team approach and as we like to say, we all have skin in the game.

What is your favorite thing about Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
I love and admire the boldness, nimbleness and creativity that is embedded into the culture. It is a work culture of taking measured risk and empowering each other, which demands constantly being thoughtful in all ways. And on a very simple level, I love OPC’s aesthetic. Everything is beautiful, from the website, to the way a meal is served, to the collaterals, to the furnishings in the casas. And it feels really nurturing and caring and good.

What are three facts about you that people do not know?
I once asked Greg Kinnear out on a date (which he did not accept). I was born on Easter Sunday and they put bunny ears on me in the hospital. In 1993 I took an impromptu 8-hour train ride to Madrid, Spain to see a sold out U2 show in a stadium that seated 60,000 people. Pretty amazing!!

Is there any additional information you want to share with our readers?
I like the idea of ending with a quote. “Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say “What have you done with your life?” and though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.”  – Brian Andreas

Posted in Our Team

The Importance of Aftercare

Posted on May 13, 2014 by StayConnected

p_transitional_living02It is about time that I introduce myself on the blog – my name is Greer Findura and I am the Social Media Marketing Manager for Oliver-Pyatt Centers, as such, I also manage Our Blog. I have a background in psychology and counseling and have worked with the amazing OPC team since 2009 as a recovery coach, primary therapist, and recovery case manager.

I was lucky enough to participate in our Family Friday events last weekend and presented on the importance we place on aftercare services. At Oliver-Pyatt Centers we begin the process of aftercare planning as soon as our women enter treatment – maintaining constant communication with families and outpatient teams and keeping in mind the environment our women will be returning to after their time with us. We know how difficult the transition from a residential level of care to home can be and highly recommend our women participate in a step-down program to take a baby step back into the real world, to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and receive continued support in their recovery.

Our Transitional Living Program truly bridges the transition from residential treatment to independent life, promoting community connection, enhanced life skills, exposure to new opportunities all while receiving the support and love from our OPC team. Our women are able to live in supported, recovery-focused apartment living while strengthening their unique identity and becoming a part of the community around them, all while receiving intensive outpatient services to explore and work through any triggers or roadblocks that may arise in this lower level of care.

Our wonderful medical, psychiatric, therapeutic, and nourishment teams maintain open communication throughout all levels of care and collaborate to create the most effective and unique aftercare plan for each and every one of our women. When a client is ready to leave our care and return to their home, college, etc. she and her outpatient treatment team are provided a comprehensive discharge summary with detailed information and clinical recommendations for continued support on her path to recovery. Our clients and families are a part of this process from admissions to aftercare. We love and support each and every woman throughout her path to recovery.

Our clients, families, and professionals are encouraged to join us in our social media community through Our Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. Also, keep your eyes open for a newsletter introducing our Alumnae Groups currently being held in the tri-state area and soon to be expanding to other areas of the country.

To contact our Admissions department and speak to Dr. Melissa Spann or another member of our admissions team, please e-mail us here or call {866.511.4325} at any time. For aftercare inquiries, please contact Alumni Manager Wendy Shoaf, via e-mail.

Posted in Our Team

Meet Our Team: Dr. Melissa Spann

Posted on May 01, 2014 by StayConnected


What is your name and what are your credentials?
Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD

Please give us a brief description of your background.
When I decided to go to graduate school to obtain a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling it was no shock to my friends and family. Growing up as the oldest of four kids, involved in community service and social action organizations in Miami and with a mother who was a family therapist, it seemed like a natural path for me. During my practicum training, I was introduced to a program called Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!, a proactive approach for building healthy self-esteem in adolescent girls. Through my work facilitating girl-only groups, I reaffirmed my dedication to working with girls and women. I decided an essential part of my training would need to include integrating a systemic perspective and holistic approach to my work. Through this, I moved to Philadelphia and attended a Ph.D. program in Couples and Family Therapy. While I was in Philadelphia, I continued my work with the Rosh Hodesh program and was introduced to The Renfrew Center in Philadelphia. There, I began my training in the field of eating disorders. I developed a specialization for working with couples and families who were struggling to cope with an eating disorder in their families. I also worked at Life Counseling Services and in a private practice to experience all levels of care in the field. I returned to home to Miami and was introduced to Oliver-Pyatt Centers. From the moment I walked into the building, I knew OPC was the type of environment I had always hoped could exist; a place where women and their families could be provided a multi-systemic integrated approach to health and healing.

What does a typical day look like for you at Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
What I love about my job is that there isn’t really a “typical” day. I have recently moved into the position of Director of Admissions. Through this role, I have the unique opportunity to interface with many people on a daily basis. I feel fortunate that I often have the chance to answer the first time someone is placing what is often the most difficult phone call to make – the call to decide if they should seek treatment. I have the opportunity to talk with people, listen to their challenges, and provide support through this process. Our goal is to provide support, consultation, and a therapeutic hand during every interaction we have. My days are filled with these interactions, in person visits from individuals and families, and working with the clinical teams to provide additional support in in any way I can.

In your own words, please describe the philosophy of Oliver-Pyatt Centers.
To me, the OPC philosophy is about balancing acceptance and change, integrating mindfulness in all aspects of life, and focusing on a highly interpersonal model to promote health and healing. One of my favorite things about OPC is that we believe recovery is possible. We work not only with the individual in treatment, but their home personal and professional teams to delve into all aspects of ensuring a recovery-oriented life.

How does the admissions team work together? How do your roles overlap and differ? 
The admissions team is a highly skilled group of women that do whatever we can to facilitate the smoothest possible transition to treatment. As the newest addition to the team, I’ve had the chance to step in to see how everyone’s unique personalities blend together to ensure quality care. The admissions team interacts beautifully will the other departments and teams up through our constant flow of communication and desire to do whatever can be done to help individuals and families.

What is your favorite thing about Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
Through my different roles at OPC – a primary therapist, director of a clinical program, and now in admissions, my favorite thing is always the same – the amazing group of people that I work with. Everyone shares a common vision and goal, respect one another, and share a life both professionally and personally with each other. Through our outstanding staff, we are able to model what it means to share in strong female relationships that provide support and care – something that is translated to the women we work with.

What are three facts about you that people do not know?
Oh boy, here it goes: I have played the guitar since I was five and love to rock out at home AND at OPC, my two children (Violet age three and Archer age five) teach me more on a daily basis than any book I’ve ever read, and I am a third generation Miami native.

Is there any additional information you want to share with our readers?
I’m always ready to talk – call me and we’ll figure it out together!

To contact our Admissions department and speak to Dr. Melissa Spann or another member of our admissions team, please e-mail us here or call {866.511.4325} at any time.

Posted in Our Team

Meet Our Team: Dr. Karin Lawson

Posted on April 17, 2014 by StayConnected


We are excited to announce the initiation of a new series on our blog: “Meet Our Team.” Every other week we will be interviewing a team member to provide you a more in-depth and personal introduction to our OPC team. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a little better!

For our first interview, we are pleased to introduce you to one of our wonderful clinical directors Dr. Karin Lawson, Psy.D.

What is your name and what are your credentials?
Karin Lawson, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Please give us a brief description of your background.
When I was in graduate school, I was in a health psychology concentration. At the time I wanted to work with medical patients. During the first portion of graduate school, I trained with patients in cardiac, renal, oncology, geriatric, and women’s health in a hospital setting. As I was nearing the last two years of classes, I had a bit of extra time and decided to get a job in order to continue exploring the broad field of psychology. I applied to be an evening and weekend counselor at The Renfrew Center in Coconut Creek, Florida . . . not knowing at all if I wanted to do eating disorder work. However, when I started working there, I immediately felt a passion about the women and the work. Since then, I have served as the Eating Disorder Program Coordinator at the University of California – Davis, where they have a full eating disorder team on campus for students of all genders who are struggling with a broad range of eating disorders. I have also worked in private practice at the Institute for Girls’ Development, in Pasadena, California, which is a group focused on girls and women with an emphasis on embodied living. Then after having lunch with Melissa McLain (OPC team member) while on vacation (YES, on vacation) in Florida, I came to Oliver-Pyatt Centers as the Clinical Director of Casa Verde. Melissa and I had worked together at UC-Davis and were catching up one lovely day. She asked if I wanted to see a bit of OPC and of course I had a genuine interest in seeing other treatment centers and understanding how OPC was different. Six weeks later I was moving from Pasadena, CA to Miami, FL.

What does a typical day look like for you at Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
I can see the backyard of Casa Verde from my office, which to me is such a beautiful space. So, typically in the morning, I take a moment to soak in some of the sunshine and green from the lush landscape before diving into the fast paced day. My mornings try to include double checking the schedule for the day and answering e-mail. On Monday mornings, I’m typically running the process group and catching up with the Casa Verde women from the weekend. Then I often have meetings over lunch where I am connecting with other members of the staff and making sure we’re all on the same page about various issues or programmatic changes. Our comprehensive program requires a LOT of communication. Much of my time is taken with communication via text, email or in-person conversations because we try to be as individualized in our approaches as we possible can, while still challenging our patients to also be flexible. In the afternoons, I’m often meeting with a few patients and then again documenting communication, whether it’s with patients, families or outpatient providers. If I’m really lucky, there might be an open window to decorate owl cupcakes or play a game of Taboo with the fabulous women of Casa Verde.

In your own words, please describe the philosophy of Oliver-Pyatt Centers.
To me, the OPC philosophy is about increasing awareness, helping people slow down, tolerating and accepting embodiment, and moving toward intuitiveness. When I say heading toward intuitiveness, I mean learning to trust themselves and their body rather than relying solely on external cues (i.e. numbers, feedback from others) not only in regard to food, but in regard to all aspects of life: relationships, movement, work, and their values. Our expectation is not that someone will be fully intuitive with their food and life upon discharge, but that we’ve helped lay a solid foundation where the next level of care can continue to support that woman in building a life without an eating disorder.

How does the team of clinical directors work together? How do your roles overlap and differ? What does your role look like within your own casa?
The three comprehensive clinical directors get together for lunch every Monday in order to discuss upcoming changes, brainstorm new ideas, and double check our house consistency with policy and procedure. I have a reputation for being laid-back. I recently realized that means, if we’re brainstorming an idea for programming, I’m likely the person who is going to volunteer to try it out. I’m actually someone who likes change for the most part, so continuing to improve and tweak our programs is exciting and stimulating for me.

What would you say is the personality of your casa?
Some days we are quiet, with a meditative feel and other days we have karaoke at full volume. There are definitely times when our women have intense emotions and struggles, but we tend to have a calm, relaxed approach. I think if we’re reactive it can feed the emotion. Our intention is to demonstrate acceptance and to help soothe the distressed patient. Plus, we have that awesome backyard I mentioned which can be a relaxing space to take a breath.

What is your favorite thing about Oliver-Pyatt Centers?
The people I work with – and I am speaking about everyone: the patients, the families, the outpatient teams, and the Oliver-Pyatt colleagues. I think as colleagues we demonstrate teamwork and that trickles down to everyone else that walks in our doors. We’re all striving for the same thing together, and, many times it does take a village to help someone create lasting change!

What are three facts about you that people do not know?
Oh, this is like Two Truths and a Lie. Okay, I’ll go with all truths: I’m originally from Oklahoma. I turn 40 this year! I love to art journal.

Is there any additional information you want to share with our readers?
I’m a bit of a quote person, so I’ll share with you one of my favorites: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.” –Mark Twain

Posted in Our Team

Things to watch out for and to keep in mind:

How able is your patient to actually identify her feelings and tell you how knowing her history may be impacting her? I have learned some very interesting things from patients via follow up surveys about my disclosure after they have left my care.

Be aware of the potential for splitting – patients may say something like “only the ones with an ED can understand” which is not true. Some of the most impactful and powerful therapists I have ever known have not had an eating disorder!

Be aware that there are things going on in the patient’s mind about your body and food and your life, regardless of whether you have an eating disorder or not. And keep in mind that even a clinician without an identified eating disorder history can be dysregulated with food and / or body. In some cases this can be even more potentially damaging than working with someone who has had an eating disorder and is now recovered.

I believe because of my own eating disorder, I had to completely change my approach to food, and learn the principals of mindful/intuitive eating.  Ultimately, this led to a much freer relationship with food than many people I know who have no prior history.

Most patients report that knowing of the history of an eating disorder in a clinician is a powerful and motivating experience. I often define for patients the Webster definition of work. Work is defined as “mental or physical energy directed toward a goal.” I share the reality of recovery having taken work.

Having had an eating disorder and being in a position where I had to walk the walk of acceptance of my natural body weight (which is an essential precursor to having a relaxed relationship with food,) I think it is important to let patients know that taking the leap toward acceptance of one’s natural body weight is THE most important component of my recovery. 

They have to work on this each day. Meaning that each day they have to put forth “mental and physical energy” toward the goal of accepting their natural body weight. I think the fact that I live in my natural body weight has a positive influence on my patients.

I believe the story of my recovery, when shared in a thoughtful way, has been effective and helpful.

Self-disclosure can provide hope, humor, connection, inspiration, and perspective. This can be powerful! There have been times when my talking with a person with a severe eating disorder, and being able to talk a little bit about my history in a thoughtful way, has made the difference as far as that person packing their bags and entering treatment. And recently, our medical director “Dr. J,” has told some of the more mature women we work with about his sister’s late recovery from her eating disorder, when she was in her mid-40s. This was very impactful for our more mature patients.

In therapy, a key piece of treatment is authenticity in both the patient as well as clinician. This authenticity is the foundation for connection, and all of the wonderful things that follow when authentic connection unfolds in treatment. In my mind, it is not so much about whether the therapist has a history or doesn’t have a history. It is about the truth, connection, and being emotionally available, and most importantly emotionally honest in a loving and directed manner.

My own history of an eating disorder and being recovered helps to inform me about some of the thoughts and feelings my patients may be experiencing, and gives me hope for my patients which I pass on to them.

If a person who once said (and meant) “I see no reason to have bread in this house,” is eating a bagel and cream cheese with some sausage and not thinking twice about it, this informs me that full recovery is possible – being recovered, not “in recovery.”

This truth of my recovery motivates me personally in my work with patients. It leaves me feeling that one cannot ever give up, and that every stone must be turned for every single person we treat. I would never want to hide why it is I feel so strongly about this.

So I have chosen the path of self-disclosure. I now see many reasons to keep bread in my house, and for that I am grateful.

Posted in Our Team

Getting back to humor – I was digging around into the scientific background on why humor is so important. I had recalled one time reading on Christine Hartline’s that one of the characteristics of a good therapist is that he/she can use humor. Why does this matter?

There are numerous biological reasons why humor and laughter are helpful, but here are some other potential reasons why humor can have an impact:


I think my humor about my own eating disorder behavior, when shared wisely with a patient who is struggling, can help to build perspective. I recall in one talk I attended given by Craig Johnson, he said that mental health had to do with having perspective. I thought it was a terrific definition of mental health. Humor really requires the use of perspective. For someone to see me as a clinician able to look at myself and even laugh at some of my former beliefs, not only am I adding to perspective, I am also role modeling humility.


My favorite definition of humility is from Thom Rutledge, co-author of Life without ED. His definition says that when you have humility you realize you are no better or no worse than anyone else. The ability for you or I to model humility can be powerful for the patient. In order to recover, our patients must all at once be able to stay in tact and cohesive, while also bearing their soul and giving up their way of coping. Humility, knowing they are no better or worse than I am, and I am no better or worse than they are, can allow them to have reverence for the seriousness of their eating disorder and an ability to accept help without spinning into self loathing. It is crucial to help patients know that they are no better or worse than we are, though they may still need our help.

This use of humor in therapy, and how it connects to humility in therapy can be very effective. I find that when I am able share the story of having once said to my college roommate, in the most serious and self-condemning way, “I see no reason to have bread in this house” and then find humor in this – maybe my patient can also find humor in how outrageous it is to not allow yourself to eat something as basic to life as bread. Through this we are creating a deeper connection. In addition to this connection, we are building perspective, changing some brain chemistry, stepping outside of a symptom and looking at it together. And when they see that I eat bread, and I am okay with eating bread, this means something to the patient.

Peter Ustinov said: “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” How true this is! The ability to share a laugh with me, while I share my own prior eating disorder thought or behavior, I am saying to the patient all at once, “Look – I was there and I had those thoughts, and look at me now, I am not being controlled by these thoughts. I am eating bread and I am okay, and you can be okay eating bread too!”

This is in no way intended to mean the eating disorder is something humorous. I am talking about finding ways out of the eating disorder controlling a person’s every move. Using humor is absolutely wrong if the patient is too far into the illness to experience what you are sharing about yourself as funny. In this case it would be contraindicated because it would be a DE-connector (versus a connector.)

But, humor can be a great and healthy connector. Winston Churchill said, “A joke is a very serious thing.” So while it may be funny, when we are able to laugh together about one of my former eating disorder thoughts or beliefs, we are often noting the deeper issues at hand, and I am creating hope and maybe a path, which my patients have described as a powerful shared experience.

Posted in Our Team

We are continuing our four part series on self-disclosure within the treatment setting. This week’s edition is a discussion on the identified key principles that should be used when thinking about disclosures, from Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS.

Many forms of disclosures come out whether we like it or not. When you work in a residential, versus outpatient office for instance, certain critical aspects of your life are more easily revealed. For example, your patients observe how you interact with other staff and patients. This reveals something about who you are. On a more superficial level the patients may be more likely to see what car you drive or a new engagement ring (or maybe the therapist is no longer wearing her ring.) It is not really whether one self discloses, it is more the degree to which one self discloses. How to manage those very natural questions our patients have about us without shaming them for their natural curiosity, all while being aware of what impact we may be having in our chosen or unchosen disclosure.

When you employ many staff with varying histories, one must develop systems around what to teach employees about self-disclosure. This comes up more frequently when you hire staff that literally “live” with the patient, as in a 24-hour care or transitional living setting. These staff may eat, sleep, go into the community, and use the same bathroom as your patients each day. The relationship expands beyond the walls of a therapy room in ways that can’t be contained in such a controlled manner. How do you guide employees or other therapists who work in a milieu setting?

I have identified what I think are four key principals that I believe should be used when thinking about disclosure in general (not just an eating disorder history):

1) Am I still struggling with this personal issue, break-up, or conflict? Would I be talking about this with the patient because I need to talk about it with someone? If this is the case, the self-disclosure absolutely must not be shared. In this case, the disclosure becomes the patient’s burden and is not their responsibility. Talk about your problems with family, friends, and therapists and not our clients. Never share something that is still emotionally charged for you, which you are still working through.

2) When you are considering sharing something with a patient, ask yourself, “Could this information be in any way harmful to the patient or confuse my role with the patient?” When sharing our histories, patients may feel uncomfortable and responsible for us, or worried about us. This can bring up deeper feelings the patient may have about being responsible for other people, or guilty feelings about their own needs. This can be especially significant with eating disorder patients where some of the patients were given excessive responsibility at a premature age and/or there are issues around differentiation. Most importantly, the patient may have many other feelings that you may not be aware of.

3) Does sharing this information actually benefit the client somehow?  Questions to ask yourself about whether it is potentially helpful include: Does this information demonstrate something helpful, such as the ability to laugh at oneself (humor,) to move through or overcome hardship, inspire a client to follow one’s dreams, help the client develop his or her own vision of recovery, or take an important leap forward?  I have found this is where disclosure of my history in eating disorder work can profoundly impact a patient.

4) If the client is to know more about the issue, how likely is it they could process in therapy the thoughts and emotions that arise as a result of knowing (both positive AND negative?) If there is some evidence in the relationship that the patient is able to openly address feelings in the relationship with the therapist, both positive and negative, then the patient is demonstrating an ability to talk about the downside the disclosure may bring up.

Check back next Thursday for the continuation of this series. 


Posted in Our Team

We are so excited for the Academy of Eating Disorders International Conference on Eating Disorders and our Chief Executive Director Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt’s participation on the Residential & Inpatient and Professionals & Recovery Special Interest Group Panel today, discussing “Opportunities and Risks with Recovered Clinicians: Ensuring Well-Being in Residential/Inpatient Facilities and the Eating Disorder Community.” 

In the theme of the SIG panel, we are kicking off a very special four-part series from Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt on the understanding, importance, and process of self-disclosure within a treatment setting. Our first post will introduce you to the topic and focus on truth in disclosure, and will provide the most important steps in Dr. Oliver-Pyatt’s book, Fed Up!


“I see no reason to have bread in this house!” These were the words spoken to Vicki, my co-founder of Oliver-Pyatt Centers. At the time we were college roommates at the University of Denver. Both of us struggled daily with food and our body, frequenting the popular diets of the times. The most coveted was the TWA Stewardess Diet, with pork chops and cauliflower on day one, fish and squash on day two, and my favorite day – day 3 with the hamburger patty and apple.

Little did I know where this was all heading. Once at a NEDA conference we were asked whether Vicki and I were  “competing” to be sicker during our college years together. Vicki explained that for us, we were both literally trying to be our best. And that is what a person with an eating disorder thinks they are doing. The only problem is that the road to hell can be paved with good intentions. No truer is this than when dealing with an eating disorder.

In no way do I think that one must have been impacted by an eating disorder in order to be a fully effective clinician. I know through experience that this is not the case. However, my experience of an eating disorder does inform me in just about every treatment decision I make, and has informed me in how I have set up the structure and environment of Oliver-Pyatt Centers.

When I was first asked to start an eating disorder treatment center, I had not previously worked in any other eating disorder treatment unit. My only experience was my own history and my experience working on an outpatient basis. I truly felt unable to say yes to the offer to start this program. The thoughts in my mind were: “How can you do that Wendy? You’ve never worked in an eating disorder unit, who are you to do such a thing?”

I had the good fortune of having a few people in my life who really encouraged me, despite my lack of exposure to an inpatient setting. And eventually I opted to open my first residential center. Over time, I came to realize that what WAS my self-identified  “weakness” (having only worked on an outpatient basis with eating disorder patients) became my strength. I could more organically create an environment and program that made sense, which used natural (vs artificial) consequences of the eating disorder and a principled approach to navigating the psychological issues, in addition to a foundation in exposure therapy, psychiatric management and medical/nutritional protocols.

Why I am giving you this back-story? I had a choice to make it right from the beginning. Would it be known to outsiders that I had experienced an eating disorder in my past? How would I manage this?

One thing I have discovered over time is that when faced with a dilemma, one can always make an argument for the truth! The truth was that I had a history of an eating disorder and it had informed every decision I made! Vicki, my co-founder, also had an experience of an eating disorder, which made our joint partnership in our creation of OPC fluid. And so we created OPC with the truth in mind, which was that we had both experienced eating disorders.

Fortunately for us, a few brave others had already begun to carve out a path for disclosure. Carolyn Costin was the first. Initially, Carolyn and I did not speak a great deal about this shared experience, but there was a common thread and a mutual understanding of what this experience felt like. For me, it was easier because Carolyn had already done it. She had chosen to tell the truth. And I owe her for being brave enough to speak this truth.

Additionally, I had already faced this dilemma and “come out” with the truth when I wrote my book “Fed Up” which was published by McGraw Hill in 2002. In writing Fed Up, it was my intention to use my experience to help prevent eating disorders. It was my intention to self disclose for the purpose of adding credibility, authenticity and hope to an approach that could lead to mindful eating and mindful living while emphasizing the importance of acceptance of natural body weight.

Four of the steps described in my book that were built on my own experience and are most helpful to my patients are:

Step Three: Decide you are good enough today to love yourself today. This step emphasizes acceptance. I ask my patients to wake up each day and live the way they would if they were in the ideal body that would make everything so great. I want to emphasize the importance of not waiting to live, and the importance of choosing the loving behavior (what I call CTLB) each and every day. Choosing the loving behavior is a way to guide people through the torment of the competing inner thought battles that occur with an eating disorder.

Choosing the loving behavior means you deserve to take care of yourself, you deserve to eat, and you deserve to take up space. And if ever in doubt about this, as can be the case when going through the recovery process, you can always simplify things and distill it down to something more simple, remembering there is never a reason to not add love to the world, even if it is adding love into your own world. And what is love without loving behavior?

Step Eight: Break through the Secrecy. This step emphasizes the release of destructive shame which I think is pivotal in the healing process.

Step Nine: What’s more important than dieting? Finding meaning outside of the eating disorder, and getting connected to your values and purpose beyond the values and directives of the eating disorder is life-changing and takes a lot of work! This chapter fits well into an ACT model- thinking big picture, and connecting to your values.

Step Ten: Preventing eating disorders and obesity in children. I have some regrets about the title of Step 10 with the use of the word “preventing.” What I didn’t realize at that time was how incredibly complicated it is to raise a child and how it may not even be true that we can actually prevent an eating disorder, if the environment and genetics all are heading the person in that direction. But I am trying to do something about how weight is approached and managed in our society and in our schools. This is where the activism comes in. In co-authoring the Academy of Eating Disorders’ Guidelines for Obesity Prevention Programs, my hope was and is to have some input on where our society is heading with the “war on obesity,” which I see as destructive and misguided. Having my own two daughters makes me even more passionate about this!

All of this is so connected to my own experience, that if I were not to disclose, it would be inauthentic. I would be compartmentalized and unable to speak the truth.

Check back every Thursday for the next month to enjoy the full series. 

Posted in Our Team


Executive Director Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS joins an esteemed group of professionals on a special interest group panel, discussing “Opportunities and Risks with Recovered Clinicians: Ensuring Well-Being in Residential / Inpatient Facilities and the Eating Disorder Community,” at the upcoming Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) 2014 International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED). Below please find an excerpt from the upcoming presentation and contact information to join us at this event.

It is well known that many clinicians in the eating disorder field have their own personal history of an eating disorder. While there have been discussions about the implications for professionals, their employers, and their clients / patients, there is no clear decision on how to address this issue. A few main questions posed and to be answered by the above-mentioned panel include:

1. What time period should someone have strong recovery prior to working in the eating disorder field?

2. Should we have open discussions about eating disorder history? How should these conversations proceed?

3. What is the best course of action when a professional working in the ED field develops an eating disorder or experiences a relapse?

As recovery becomes a more broadly discussed topic in the field, these questions are critical to study, discuss, and better understand. After reviewing the current literature and developing data on the prevalence of personal eating disorder histories in those working in the field, panel members will present the results of a new survey of global eating disorder treatment programs seeking to better understand the experience of programs employing or interfacing with these professionals. Panel members will present various models currently in use in regards to hiring guidelines and the process for assisting a staff member thought to be experiencing relapse.

We hope to see you at the panel presentation and the ICED Conference being held from March  27 – 29, 2014 in New York. Advanced registration is now closed, but registration at the time of the event is welcome. To meet with a member of our staff during the conference please e-mail us here.

Information and copy from this post acquired from the Academy for Eating Disorders 2014 ICED SIG Panel Description Form. 

Posted in Our Team


We are pleased to share Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt’s blog post, “An Outsider’s Look on Anorexia,” recently featured on the Eating Disorder Coalition of Tennessee’s (EDCT) Topic Tuesday.

I recently encountered a lovely young man from Nigeria. He is 15 years old. When I showed him Oliver-Pyatt Centers buildings, and let him know we treat individuals with anorexia nervosa, he asked, “What do you do with them? How do you make them eat? Why don’t they eat?” To a teenager from Nigeria, who came to America looking for stability and a brighter future, the disorder made no sense. Why did these people not eat when food is available? Aren’t they thankful to have the food in the first place? 

I got to thinking about what a misunderstood condition anorexia nervosa really is. Anorexia Nervosa is a condition where the patient is, as Carolyn Costin puts it, “a canary in a coal mine.” In our society of abundance, why would people “choose” to starve themselves?

The answer is complex. Anorexia nervosa is perhaps the most vivid example of the interplay between biology and environment, where the impact of the environment directly and indirectly interacts with the biology of the brain. The pressures to restrict are like the toxic fumes of our society, taking down those who are most vulnerable to interpersonal pressure to connect and “succeed” interpersonally by conforming to the social mandate to be thin (or be shamed).

When you ask a patient, “why do you want to be thinner?” the answers can vary. But when you repeat the question and dig further and further, you often will fumble onto the common principal of the wish, we all share, which is to be loved and accepted.  This may seem petty, but let’s think about survival. Attachment and connection may be as critical to survival as food and shelter. What else does “being thinner” represent to a patient? Being thinner makes the world a little safer, gives the person more chance of being cared for, accepted and “held.” The pursuit of thinness itself becomes a guiding light, making no room for any other thoughts, feelings or needs. Maintaining the rigidity around food is a parallel process for maintaining a way of living that leaves no room for conflicting needs and desires. That is why it can be so beneficial to learn the language of the eating disorder, and discover how the eating disorder is functioning for the patient. Is it keeping all other thought and emotion at bay? Relieving the responsibility of another developmental milestone? Drawing in attachment figures in a way that makes the world feel safer? Reinforcing for the patient that they are not alone?

Winnicott said, “being sick provides immediate relief by legitimizing dependency.” The “sickness” of anorexia is at once a biological process of the brain being “hijacked” by the impact of starvation, while also functioning in so many ways socially and psychologically.

The toxic fumes of our society imbed into the psyche of the vulnerable. The restriction begins and then all hell breaks loose. The brain changes, the thoughts consume the person, literally debunking all rationale thinking about food, creating what I call a “pocket of psychosis.” 

I was struck by the question from our Nigerian friend and how confusing this disorder seemed to him. How can I explain the pressure to restrict to this young man? Would he ever understand the depth of the condition and what is at stake? I did not know the words to use to help him grasp the origins of this condition and also gravity. My struggle to describe this condition to a person from such a far away place, I think speaks to the cultural and environmental factors that contribute.

Today I write this blog, emphasizing the bio-psycho-social condition of anorexia nervosa. I honor all of those who struggle with this painful condition, where the person is trapped between hunger and competing thoughts and fears. Our friend from Nigeria arrived in the USA not long ago. It will take him some time to understand how a culture and a brain can interact to lead to the demise of those who are vulnerable. I hope the world will become a kinder place, where we can work together to reduce the factors (Carolyn’s “toxic fumes”) that place a person at risk, while simultaneously evolving into a society that insists we do more for those who are impacted.

– Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS

Posted in Our Team


Posted on September 18, 2013 by StayConnected


Welcome to our new blog!  Here we will be sharing more about ourselves while providing insight into the current research, opinions, and understandings of living with an eating disorder and finding true recovery.

Some of the topics you can anticipate are: recovery tips; happenings and expansions at Oliver-Pyatt Centers; writings by our clinical and nutrition staff, as well as guest posts from outreach and education specialists; recipes from the kitchens of OPC; self-care activities; firsthand accounts of presentations and conferences; explorations of how eating disorders can affect specific individuals, such as parents and college students, or those within particular religious and cultural groups; national and international innovations in the field of eating disorders; and more.

We are looking forward to communicating with you through this platform, and hearing your thoughts and feedback.

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