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The Emily Program On-site Professional Visit

By Rebecca Bitzer, MS, RD, CEDRD

As you probably know, as eating disorder Registered Dietitians, it is essential for us to have a solid, first hand experience with treatment centers available to help our clients struggling with eating disorders. We often work with clients on an outpatient basis after being discharged from a treatment facility and also provide recommendations for a higher level of care when needed. In terms of choosing a treatment center, I liken it to choosing a college. There are many wonderful colleges and at the same time is is good to find a college that is the best fit for you.  Just like colleges, treatment centers at not all alike, so we like to find out as much as we can about treatment centers so we can make the best recommendations for our clients.  Visiting treatment centers also gives us a chance to work with the professionals at the treatment center to best collaborate and help make transitions as seamlessly as possible.  Here is an overview of our most recent visit to The Emily Program in Minnesota.

emily program

Visitor badge at the Emily Program

Our event started with a dinner with the founder and the board of directors of The Emily Program.  It is always so inspirational to meet the people and feel the passion of the treatment center.  Being on a professional visit also allows us the opportunity to meet other professionals who work in the field of eating disorders.

emily program

Spending time with other professionals working in the field of eating disorders

The next day was filled with comprehensive presentations from the treatment team and a tour of the facilities.  It is nice to see how the patients decorate their rooms and how they come up with inspirational art projects

We got to see first hand the program and hear in depth their treatment philosophies.  Highlights from the program including a chance for us to experience a experiential meal similar to one that the clients would do.  And lastly we also got to practice yoga in a group just like the patients. As an added bonus; yoga class came with a mediation card for inspiration.

emily program

A reminder to meditate

Other tips and information from the visit include:

  • The Emily Program uses a 3 legged stool for recovery including:
    • Evidence based research
      • CBT, DBT, FBT are all are different evidence-based therapies that are used in eating disorder treatment. These tools break down thought processes and these skills can be used while inpatient and continued back at home or school to foster recovery.
      • Community Support
      • (social support and community building)
    • Education/information
      • Nutrition therapy (mindfulness, planning, distress tolerance, meal planning and self-care)
  • One book that was recommended was Living Sensationally: Understanding Your Senses by Winnie Dunn to help understand the differences in neurobiology in family members with and without eating disorders.  Reading how people are wired differently, takes a lot of the guilt and potential shame that some family members struggling with an eating disorder. Instead, another way to think about it is that brain function, specifically how we process our environment is in our DNA, it is with us from birth and it is one way that we are all different. So, how can we use this information to relate to each other better?  Since our visit, I read this book and will be highlighting it in a future blog.
    • Based on the research in this book. The Emily Program teams is looking at:
      • how we are all wired differently in terms of sensitivities to the environment
      • and that eating disorders are extremes of naturally occurring behaviors and how the dopamine and opioid systems in neurobiology are involved
  • Gut/microbiome
    • They are also actively investigating the gut/brain serotonin relationship and looking at ways to rebuild the gut (just like we are doing in our practice)

As an aside, when Bobbi Boteler, RD, LD, CEDRD and I travel on business, we always make sure to squeeze in a self-care walk.  We discovered the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge near our hotel. As an added bonus,  I was even able to get a stamp for visiting a national park which is my newest hobby!  

If you are thinking about getting treatment for an eating disorder for yourself or a loved-one; please reach out to me at rebecca@empoweredeatingblog.com.

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