Alumni Spotlight: At the Forefront of the Treatment of Eating Disorders

Mar 7, 2016 by Tom Dellner

Although we know much more about feeding and eating disorders today than we did a couple of decades ago, when anorexia was considered a “rich girl’s disorder” and treatment options were limited and rudimentary, the problem is one of epidemic proportions in today’s world, according to Dr. Joanna Bronfman.

Dr. Bronfman is a leader in the treatment of eating disorders and the founder and clinical director of Backcountry Wellness, a Greenwich, CT recovery center for those suffering from eating disorders. She notes the growing number of disorders, some officially classified, some not, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, diabulima (diabetics manipulating diet and insulin intake to lose weight), orthorexia (so-called “clean eating” to an obsessive excess, which sets individuals up for anorexia) and drunk-bulimia (binge drinking, followed by eating and purging).

Dr. Bronfman—a graduate of CalSouthern’s PsyD program—also notes that eating disorders are expanding—quickly—into different populations. Studies indicate that 20 percent of gay men have an eating disorder. Binge-eating disorder is a pernicious problem in the Hispanic community. Adolescents are far from immune; Dr. Bronfman sees clients as young as seven years old.

Dr. Bronfman believes the rise of photo-driven social media is at the center of the problem. “Society now speaks in pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. And, of course, people only present the very best, often highly filtered, images of themselves. The visual has become that much more important—that much more charged—and it is a real driving force for this epidemic.”

There are reasons for optimism, though. One of the most significant is the emergence of recovery centers like Backcountry Wellness. Dr. Bronfman has created a model that allows women and girls to undergo a rigorous recovery program while maintaining a job, school and social/familial connections. “The idea is to bridge recovery and real life,” explains Dr. Bronfman. Often, you may send someone to a treatment facility and they do well, but they aren’t ready for the stressors that they’ll inevitably encounter when they return to their lives—and they relapse. We help them recover in their lives, and we find that it greatly reduces recidivism.”

In the following podcast interview, Dr. Bronfman—an engaging and thoughtful speaker—shares her thoughts on eating disorders in today’s digital world, her work, its challenges and rewards, as well as the personal and professional characteristics one needs to be an effective practitioner in this field. She also reflects on her experience at CalSouthern and the doctoral work that has become fundamental to her current practice.

We encourage you to listen to this compelling interview in its entirety.

Please click below to listen to the podcast:




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