What is Communities of HEALing?
Communities of HEALing is a brand new pilot program, launched by Project HEAL in 2017, and currently being studied in partnership with Columbia University, 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!
You can be involved in Communities of HEALing in one of three ways:
For those New to Recovery: Peer Mentorship and Social Support
In this phase of the program we are conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with Researches at Columbia University to help us learn whether different types of 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).
Open to Anyone in Recovery: Support Groups
Anyone in recovery from an eating disorder is always welcome to attend one of our support groups, and you do not need to be a research participant to do so. 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.
For Those Who Are Recovered, or Have Never Had an Eating Disorder: Mentorship and Facilitation
Whether you are recovered and want to give back to our community, or have never personally struggled with an eating disorder, you can apply to become a Communities of HEALing mentor.
Peer mentors provide 1:1 peer support to a mentee in the early stages of recovery. Peer 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.
Social support mentors provide support to mentees in the form of sharing weekly social activities intended to help them build a social support network–going to a museum, seeing a movie, going to a new cultural exhibit–that are not focused on the eating disorder. Social support mentors make a commitment of about 3 hours per week, which includes the weekly meeting with their mentee and regular supervision calls.
This is a great opportunity to help advance scientific understanding of eating disorders, gain clinical experience, and support those in recovery from an eating disorders. Social support mentors must not have had past experience with an eating disorder, and cannot have any formal clinical training (social work and psychology graduate studies). Great opportunity for current undergrads in psychology.
Group Facilitators lead our weekly support groups, encouraging meaningful conversation between a group of 2-12 attendees in various stages of recovery. Facilitators are individuals who have suffered from an eating disorder, have been recovered for at least two years, and who are trained to facilitate group.
Each role offers a unique and rewarding opportunity to support those in early recovery. Stay tuned for more information about how to apply for these roles!
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 Peer Mentor Training
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.
Peer 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.