Eating Disorders & Neuroplasticity Breakthroughs for Intensive Psychotherapists & Other Clinicians

Apr 10, 2019


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Recently, Avalon Hills visited the big apple to provide a one-day workshop on the latest and greatest treatment interventions for eating disorders. This workshop was held at NYU in conjunction with faculty sponsor Dr. Steven Shelov, who is the founding dean and professor of pediatrics at NYU Long Island School of Medicine. The mission of the medical education program at NYU-LI resonated with us given that it seeks to educate the next generation of physicians in primary care at a time that there is a major shortage of general practitioners in the United States. It was a great honor to be sponsored by Dr. Shelov given his commitment to the field of medicine over a long career during which he has served many patients and families, worked in administrative positions and authored or co-authored 15 books and over 100 articles. Additionally, we are grateful to be connected with Dr. Shelov by another highly regarded Dr. Shelov-his daughter Danielle. Dr. Danielle Shelov is a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating those suffering from eating disorders. We have been fortunate to collaborate on patient care with Danielle over the course of many years. The providers at Avalon Hills love treating New Yorkers and working with bright, dedicated referents!

The workshop featured Dr. Norman Doidge, Dr. Jefferey DeSarbo, Dr. Ed Hamlin, Dr. Don Hebert & Ane Axeford, MS

Dr. Doidge is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who is on faculty at the Departments of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Columbia University. His book, The Brain that Changes Itself was chosen by the Dana Brain Foundation and the Journal Cerebrum from among 30,000 books as the “best general book on the brain”. Dr. Doidge also provides clinical education to the therapy staff at Avalon Hills and is considered the founding father of concept of neuroplasticity.

Dr. DeSarbo is a Board Certified Psychiatrist and founder of ED-180 Eating Disorder Programs, located in Garden City, NY. Dr. DeSarbo is currently completing a book on the neuroscientific aspects of eating disorders. Dr. Hamlin is a clinical neuropsychologist and the Clinical Director at the Institute for Applied Neuroscience located in Asheville, NC. Dr. Hamlin has practiced neurofeedback and applied psychophysiology since the mid 1980’s and reads all of the quantitative EEGs acquired at Avalon Hills and makes individualized neurofeedback recommendations tailored to the individual needs of each patient. Dr. Hamlin is involved in research examining the impact of early abuse and neglect on the developing brain and understanding brain activity in people with eating disorders. Dr. Hebert is a seasoned Marriage and Family Therapist and is BCIA certified in biofeedback. Dr. Hebert serves as the Director of Operations at Avalon Hills, where he is highly involved in the development of brain-based interventions. Ane Axeford is a talented primary therapist with a background in marriage and family therapy. Her skills are varied and many and she has a distinct gift in helping patients with high sensitivity navigate their challenges and harness their strengths.

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Dr. Doidge’s dynamic talk shared an approach to treating eating disorders with the best of depth psychology, new insights from neuroplasticity, and the latest understanding of the brain and how the two hemispheres function together to foster healing. The Avalon Hills team has worked diligently to build a treatment model informed by empirically supported therapy approaches and recent advances in neuroscience. The group of speakers discussed how to move beyond symptom management towards discovering and working through the etiological factors that lead to the onset of the eating issues. When treatment is successful, patients don’t just “control” the disorder, but rather grow out of the need for it. Ane Axeford, MS, primary therapist also shared a case to elucidate the concepts that were presented, taking the treatment model live for attendees.

Dr. DeSarbo discussed the translation of technical research findings in the neuroscience of eating disorders and focused on the clinical application of these results. Participants reported an appreciation of the discussion of the impact of heredity, contributing biological causes of distorted body image, the drive for thinness, frequency of binge episodes, and the various phenotypes of eating disorders. Dr. DeSarbo’s talk provided the perfect foundation for a deeper discussion of the specifics of using applied neuroscience approaches in Dr. Hamlin and Dr. Hebert’s portion of the workshop. These two presenters shared the work-the driving force behind the Treat to Outcome approach at Avalon Hills with a focus on innovation and commitment to sustained outcomes. Specifically, Drs. Hamlin and Hebert discussed the state of the field of eating disorders treatment and the application of quantitative EEGs and neurofeedback at Avalon Hills with the goal of facilitating healthier brain functioning for patients who often present as initially hopeless about recovery.


Comments from workshop attendees included:

A lot of useful information packed into the day. Clearly presented and engaging.”

“It was very absorbing as the presenters spoke with authority and made it understandable, that is, not too technical.”

“I learned so much more about brain health and the intersection between psychology and biology.”

I gained “knowledge of neuroplasticity and how that can be impacted through therapy and other interventions. It helped me identify what interventions are better used for different clients at different points in treatment.”

“The complexity of treating eating disorders was validated.”


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