"Full Metal Apron":
Eating Disorders Parent/Caregiver Coaching
What I am: An Expert by Experience on eating disorders and a professional educator with deep experience and training as a volunteer peer coach/mentor and peer educator.
What I am not: A licensed medical professional, therapist, counselor or social worker
Our youngest daughter grew up in a happy functional home, the youngest of four and was a social, athletic, academic and all around fun kid. When she was a senior in high school, a “healthy eating makeover” was the catalyst for the physiological cascade of a negative energy balance triggering a reward center malfunction in the amygdala in her brain, leading to restrictive anorexia nervosa. It was a terrifying time, unlike anything I have experienced. Getting her well took our family doing things we’d never before contemplated and fighting in ways we weren’t sure we could. The support and stories of other families was a major component of our success. Her time, and ours as well, in her treatment program was life altering not just in terms of beating the anorexia, but also for the next level emotional regulation and effective communication and wise mind decision making skills they taught us.Today our daughter is not merely fine, she is fulfilling her dreams and living a full life that includes the joys of food as nourishment, community, and love and our family bonds together over shared meals when we are together.
We are eternally grateful to the University of California San Diego Eating Disorders Center for Research and Treatment (UCSD-EDCRT) for a program and support that was based on research and delivered by compassionate and brilliant clinicians. A cornerstone of the UCSD-EDCRT approach is psychoeducation and caregiver skills training and an understanding you are the expert on your child and a valued treatment team member, and that has guided my own growth as a peer supporter and advocate.
UCSD-EDCRT has invested in creating a transformative peer support model; I am a member of their stellar Parent Advisory Council where peer mentors receive training in motivational inquiry, are in a feedback loop with clinicians about effective ways to provide peer support, and receive monthly trainings on topics that help us provide the best peer support possible. We mentor monthly or more frequently in group settings and take on individual mentees. Additionally, they provide me a space to facilitate an unaffiliated community support group, a group I have been leading for three years.
Finding My Passion
The gift of frequent flyer miles from a husband who travels for work, and the encouragement of several clinicians and other parents, led to me attending my first professional conference and I was hooked on the energy, learning, and relationship building possible, as well as the ability to meet and converse with the sheroes and heroes of the literature I was devouring. At the same time I became part of online communities powered by parents doing what I wanted to do - supporting other parents and families rocked by a disorder, a diagnosis where outdated beliefs and treatments were too often the norm even amongst professionals. In both support and advocacy work I stand on the shoulders of and in the trenches with amazing warrior parents who began this fight when I was still blissfully ignorant that anorexia could happen in happy families and had a strong genetic and neurobiological basis.
I have spent seven intense years building eating disorders knowledge, and connections and communities. In addition to my role as a parent mentor for the UCSD-CETR Parent Advisory Council and the training for that role, I co-founded and admin the online community International Eating Disorders Family Support, I lead an on-ground weekly community support group in San Diego, I am a board member and the School Materials and Presentations Task Force Chair for Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.), and have served on the Patient Technical Advisory Committee on Behavioral Health for The Joint Commission, as well as co-founding World Eating Disorders Action Day.
Today, presenting at the conferences where I was once a wide-eyed fangirl is a reality, and the label Expert by Experience is now embraced as powerful and empowering. The better a clinician is, in my experience, the more they understand that parents and other caregivers benefit powerfully from the support of those with similar lived experience and embrace the inclusion of peer support for caregivers and siblings as a benefit to the recovery of an impacted person and for the family as a whole. Full Metal Apron Warrior is the term I coined to describe parents and partners empowered and dedicated to giving their loved one and family the best chance to heal and flourish in the aftermath of an eating disorder.
How Am I Different From A Therapist?
As an informed, educated, experienced international peer support provider, I understand the spectrum of hurdles a family faces and the variations among systems and with insurance, as well as being cognizant of cultural norms. I have dealt with many iterations of family dynamics and diagnoses and co-morbids, and I have a personal library of books, articles, videos, and podcasts I curate and add to daily so I can target your resources to your individual needs. I have connections with professionals and peer supporters and advocates across the world who are as eager to help families as I am.
I use a lot of analogies and visualization in my coaching, so think of yourself as learning to ride a bike with my help - I am going to explain to you how a bike works, spend some time running alongside you holding onto the handlebars and seat, cheer you when you take your first wobbly solo spins around the parking lot, help you dust yourself off if you fall, and be available if the bicycle needs a tune-up.
Who Do I Work With?
I work with parents and other caregivers of loved ones with an eating disorder. For those who want support for themselves in recovering from an eating disorder, I highly recommend Tabitha Farrar as a Recovery Coach. Whenever possible, I prefer to talk to co-parent/partner caregivers together at least part of the time as being on the same page can prevent the triangulation that eating disorders can exploit and exacerbate. I have successfully worked with people across gender, culture, faith and other spectrums; my role is to meet you exactly where you are, help identify your needs and resources. In my experience, a vital part of meeting people where they are is understanding that there is a balance between empowering caregivers to create their own solutions and providing direction that makes that process easier, especially in the early chaotic and frightening days that surround a diagnosis and the realization that life and parenting as you knew it before have been turned upside down and you are now the captain of a ship pitching about in a storm, hanging on the hope of a flashing beacon to begin to guide you to the safety of shore.