Flourish took root in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2018.
I am an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and until recently, the clinical director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. But recently, I decided to pivot and follow a slightly different path. Why?
In the last 10 years, I kept hearing stories. Stories from my own patients and my mom friends. Stories from tweens at the Right in the Middle workshops with Michelle Icard. Stories from Facebook groups like Grown and Flown and Less Stressed Middle School Parents. Stories from the college counseling center at UNC Counseling and Psychological Services.
I heard over and over again that young people today are feeling overwhelmed. The stress from AP exams, the group chat that turned toxic, the Twitter troll, applying to college, adjusting to college, serious health challenges, and Instagram FOMO are leaving young people and their parents feeling exhausted and confused. Sometimes it also leads to serious problems with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders as recently highlighted in the New York Times and Time.
As a therapist and researcher, I use science-backed principles that can help everyone ride out the emotional discomfort that can come with living hyperconnected lives. Family members and loved ones often feel left out of traditional therapy and as a family therapist, I know how to help young people and their loved ones face the stressors of today.
Fundamentally, I am committed to my local community here in Chapel Hill. Young people and their families in the Triangle need to have access to great care with personalized support. UNC students deserve a place that they can walk to for therapy or get to easily by bus so that they can focus on their studies and the next chapter in their lives.
Where are you from?
I'm an Iowan, a Texan, and a card-carrying recovering perfectionist. As a teen, I studied way too hard and went off to Yale University for college. At Yale, I played in the symphony and flirted with a career in music but then discovered I really wanted to be a therapist and researcher. After college, I packed up my cat Henry in a moving van and left for the University of Pittsburgh. While there, I got a PhD in clinical and developmental psychology where I studied how toddlers, teens, and young adults think, how their brains develop, and how to provide science-based therapies. In 2006, I left Pittsburgh for sunny San Diego, started working with patients with eating disorders at the internationally-recognized University of California San Diego, and learned family-based therapy, an especially effective form of treatment for eating disorders. I love helping people develop a new relationship with their mind, their body, and themselves.
In 2007, I moved to Chapel Hill with my family to start work as a post-doc at UNC Chapel Hill and since 2008, have been a professor in the Department of Psychiatry. I love it here and consider this lovely, funky, woodsy college town my home. You'll find me cheering (sometimes swearing) at UNC basketball games, picking out produce at the Carrboro farmer's market, and sinking into the awesome reclining chairs at Silverspot for the next Marvel movie.
Before I started Flourish, I researched the genetics of eating disorders, how eating disorders are associated with autoimmune diseases, and how to use technology and social media to improve eating disorder treatment. I'm a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the Eating Disorder Research Society.
Have your eyes glazed over yet? I really do love my science side! I am also super passionate about communicating science. My work has been published in scientific publications and I tweet about new research findings. During our work together, I might use science to help you understand why your brain thinks the way it does. Or I might explain how your microbiome (the bacteria that live in your poop!) could be affecting your emotional life. In 2015, I went way out of my comfort zone to give a TEDx talk to describe my research on social media and body image, a talk that's been watched almost 20,000 times, and I learned a lot about how to deal with online trolls.