Meet Our Team: Dr. Karin Lawson

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