Changing Lives: The 10th Annual Eating Recovery Foundation Conference
I knew that the 10thannual Eating Recovery Foundation Conference would be intense with learning, travel and social events, but I certainly didn’t anticipate that I would be having lunch with a former NFL player, meeting a New York Times-bestselling author, and getting to know some of the nation’s top eating disorder and mental health experts.
If you work in the mental health space or with people with eating disorders, I highly recommend that you attend the ERF conference next year — led by brilliant and thoughtful leaders. Here’s a brief summary of my weekend.
Welcome to Denver! The conference began bright and early on Friday with a laid-back breakfast as attendees checked in and picked up their badges and conference materials. Everyone was quiet at first, but quickly became chatty. It was wonderful to meet so many individuals from around the country, including a therapist who had come all the way from Alaska. We started reviewing our planned schedules for the day via the helpful conference app.
New research on Family-Based Treatment
To start things off, Dr. Daniel LeGrange and Dr. Ellen Astrachan-Fletcher presented to the entire group on the topic of Family-Based Treatment (FBT) — in particular, how to implement FBT in clinical settings. This impressive duo presented some new data and research on FBT that will certainly benefit those in clinical practice.
Learn more about Family-Based Treatment.
After the FBT talk, the conference attendees were split into several rooms for the breakout sessions. It was very hard to choose which sessions I would attend. The topics were diverse and all sounded fascinating. Since I’m not a clinician, but I am a parent of three girls, my goal was to attend presentations that could give me more insight into my role as a parent. I primarily attended sessions that discussed issues pertinent to families.
The importance of mindfulness and self-compassion
In my first breakout session, Jennifer McAdams reviewed the main principles of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), focusing on issues like the importance of self-compassion and mindfulness — and how these principles can help us in our own lives. I really enjoyed Jennifer’s talk and it was a popular session; the large meeting room was quite full. She discussed how to avoid clinician burnout and how therapists can help caregivers avoid burnout. I knew I would be able to take a lot of the principles home with me to apply in my own life and with my family.
Learn more about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Friday lunch brought us another delicious meal. For some reason, everyone was reportedly quite hungry throughout the weekend. And, the food was so good. Was it the excitement of being at the conference? Was everyone celebrating because it was the 10thanniversary of Eating Recovery Center? Was it the altitude? Jet lag? I’m not sure, but I really enjoyed every meal.
During lunch, I was able to chat with some of my colleagues and I ended up sitting at the same table as former NFL player and eating disorder advocate Patrick Devenney. He was warm and open about his own recovery from an eating disorder and also very insightful into the issues elite and professional athletes face regarding diet and eating disorders. [Note: in Patrick’s opinion, many/most elite athletes have some kind of disordered eating habits].
Learn more about Patrick Devenney’s eating disorder recovery in Mental Note Podcast #8: Trouble in the NFL.
Working with caregivers in eating disorder treatment
Dr. Adele LaFrance and Dr. Elizabeth Easton did an amazing job presenting on Emotion-Focused Family Therapy (EFFT). Dr. LaFrance clearly has high enthusiasm for EFFT (she is co-developer); she and Dr. Easton shed light on the value of EFFT in eating disorder and mental health treatment — discussing roadblocks, vulnerability and validation. I felt like many of the insights shared in this talk (ways to encourage connection and how to re-direct) could be applied to my work as a parent as well.
Learn more about Emotion-Focused Family Therapy.
Friday’s Keynote Speaker was eating disorder advocate and former player with the Seattle Mariners Mike Marjama, who was hospitalized and received inpatient treatment during his junior year in high school. His mother was in attendance as well. Mike's energy was contagious. His talk was another reminder of the risks of eating disorders developing in elite and professional athletes.
A cold front blew in overnight. I loved waking up at 5:00 a.m. to cold weather as I grabbed coffee downtown. The wind chill was 28, far different from 90+ degrees and humid back home.
Addressing eating disorders and related comorbidities
Dr. Ken Weiner gave a short presentation Saturday morning on the 10 things learned in 10 years at Eating Recovery Center. He noted that ERC is the only national, vertically-integrated health care system dedicated to treating eating disorders for the very sickest (acute) individuals as well as those needing Inpatient, Residential, Partial Hospitalization or Intensive Outpatient care. Dr. Weiner noted that ERC rarely sees patients with eating disorders that don’t also have another comorbid diagnosis, like anxiety or depression. He discussed ERC’s culture: compassion, collaboration, competency, integrity and innovation — as well as ERC’s strong commitment to involving families in their loved one’s care.
Learn more about the history and future of ERC.
Patients with Trauma and Binge Eating Disorder
Dr. Julie Friedman and Dr. Steven Prinz presented on Treating Comorbid Trauma and Binge Eating Disorder (BED). This talk was fascinating as I learned more about binge eating disorder – the most common eating disorder currently – and how professionals are working with survivors of trauma and those with PTSD. If I was a clinician, I would definitely be leaving the talk with a lot of new insight into how to help my patients.
Learn more about shame and binge eating disorder (BED).
Motivating patients with substance use and eating disorder histories
Linda Lewaniak and Robyn Cruze discussed treating individuals with a history of substance abuse and eating disorder symptoms. Robyn shared her personal story of recovery from an eating disorder and addiction. Linda showed us her down-to-earth and grounded personality and how she connects with patients trying to recover from addiction by doing a role-play with Robyn. The two presenters reiterated how tough it is to overcome and treat addiction but that it is possible and there are ways to increase motivation in patients.
Learn more about recovery, integrated care and substance use treatment at ERC/Pathlight.
Saturday lunch was amazing. Again, ravenous, I sat in the large conference room, juggling my boxed lunch on my lap. We had the fortunate experience of hearing Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. (This book was made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon). As Cheryl shared heartwarming and humorous tales of her intense and amazing life, I was struck by her storytelling, captivated, and wanted to hear more. Inspired by her talk, I asked her to sign my copy of the book Wild. A long line of other people waiting at the book signing showed me that many others were also touched by Cheryl's words and work.
Unfortunately, I had to head to the airport shortly after Cheryl’s talk to catch my flight home. But, before I left, I did have the chance to listen to a few minutes of one final talk. Lara Schuster Effland and Melissa O’Neill presented on Barriers to Treatment. This is such an important topic to address. Financial barriers and location barriers (not having access to qualified professionals) affect millions of people living with eating disorders and mental health issues. My hope is that, with better understanding and awareness and technological advances like virtual therapy and telebehavioral health, more people will get access to the care they need — and deserve.
A weekend surrounded by hundreds of sensitive, caring, and open-minded therapists is inevitably enriching. Two days spent talking about transforming lives and supporting others on the path to recovery was inspiring. I truly felt kindness and warmth from every person I talked to over the weekend. I deepened connections with colleagues and formed personal and professional bonds with many kindred spirits.
I will certainly be back to the Eating Recovery Foundation annual conference next year and I hope that you consider joining us, too.
- Britt Berg, Digital Marketing Consultant, Eating Recovery Center & Pathlight Behavioral Health Centers
The Tenth Annual Eating Recovery Foundation Conference was held on October 5-6, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. Pictured here: The Eating Recovery Center Ambassador Council