What is Communities of HEALing?
Communities of HEALing is a brand new pilot program, launched by Project HEAL in 2017, designed to explore the ways that peer support and mentorship can help individuals to fully recover from an eating disorder. The program includes several separate components: weekly support groups in local communities, possible 1:1 mentorship for those newly out of treatment, other facilitated experiences, and in some cases social support in the form of group outings like going to a movie together!
After successfully launching in two sites early this year, we are preparing to begin a new phase of the pilot program in the fall of 2017. In this phase, we are partnering with researchers at the Columbia University Center for Eating Disorders and the team at Recovery Record to evaluate the effectiveness of the mentorship program.
You can be involved in Communities of HEALing in one of three ways:
Open to Anyone in Recovery: Support Groups
Anyone in recovery from an eating disorder is always welcome to attend one of our weekly support groups.
For those in a Strong and Active Recovery: Mentorship and Facilitation
If you are recovered and want to give back to our community, you can apply to become a Communities of HEALing mentor. Mentors provide 1:1 peer support to a mentee in the early stages of recovery, and facilitate our weekly support groups. For more information about mentorship, click here. Mentorship is not the right fit for everyone, however, we remain committed to finding a way for anyone who wants to support Project HEAL to be involved. Applicants who are not selected to become mentors may be invited to facilitate a session of The Body Project, or to join in one of our other volunteer opportunities.
For those New to Recovery: Peer Mentorship and Social Support
We are preparing to launch a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to help us learn whether different types of social support are helpful to individuals seeking to recover from an eating disorder. Individuals early in recovery who have outpatient treatment teams may be eligible to participate in the peer and social support mentorship programs as part of a research study. Eligible individuals will be randomly assigned to get mentored by a recovered peer, meet as part of a social group to engage in activities unrelated to the eating disorder, or be on a waitlist (individuals on the waitlist will receive mentorship after several months).
We deeply appreciate your patience as we build and assess this new program. No matter how you participate, you will be helping us to learn if mentorship and social support are helpful to teens and adults who want to recover from an eating disorder!
About Support Groups
Communities of HEALing support groups meet weekly, and are open to anyone healing from an eating disorder. Group lasts an hour and a half, and is facilitated by trained volunteers who have been recovered for a minimum of two years. As with all of the programs in Communities of HEALing, group is not a substitute for clinical treatment.
About Being a Mentor
Communities of HEALing Mentors are individuals who have suffered from an eating disorder, have been recovered for at least two years, and who are trained to provide peer support. Mentors are not clinicians, and Communities of HEALing is not a replacement for professional treatment.
The Communities of HEALing Mentor Training Program is a collaboration between Project HEAL and the Carolyn Costin Institute. The training is designed to ground mentors in the 8 Keys to Recovery, a framework developed by renowned clinician and eating disorder recovery advocate Carolyn Costin, as well as gold standard practices for peer support, group/individual mentorship, and facilitation of our program.
Mentors make a commitment of about 5 hours per week for at least one year, which includes meeting with their mentee, helping to facilitate an open support group, participating in regular supervision, and completing any evaluative measures for the research team.
About the Randomized Control Trial (RCT)
The study is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of two peer support strategies:
Peer mentorship, led by individuals who have recovered from an eating disorder, focused specifically on eating disorder recovery. Mentors are trained to provide support and guidance from the perspective of their personal experience, with the goal of helping mentees to live the fullest life that is possible in recovery. (Applicants may also be placed on a waitlist to become a mentee. Applicants on the waitlist will receive mentorship after six months.)
Social support, led by individuals with no personal history of an eating disorder, focused on expanding aspects of life unrelated to the eating disorder through participating in community, advocacy, leisure, and social activities.
Who is eligible?
Participants in the Communities of HEALing (COH) study are individuals who suffer from eating disorders, currently have outpatient treatment teams, and are highly motivated to recover. COH is not a replacement for therapy; the program works in conjunction with a mentee’s treatment team, and all mentees are required to obtain a release from their treatment team in order to participate in the program. Stay tuned for more information about how to take part!