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Think Like An Advocate: Harnessing Your Strengths to Create Change in the Eating Disorder Field

Thursday, March 23, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Del Fuego (Green Valley Ranch)

Background: Advocacy work is essential in the eating disorder field, as public perception and stigma remain profound. Despite a lack of training in advocacy, eating disorder professionals often need to integrate advocacy into clinical work. Presenters will teach advocacy skills, utilizing their experience launching the "Nine Truths About Eating Disorders.”

Objectives: Following this presentation, participants will be able to identify, utilize and explain: 1. Two basic principles of eating disorder advocacy and two barriers to creating change. 2. At least three personal qualities, abilities, or areas of expertise that can begin or enhance their advocacy work. 3. How to participate in at least three eating disorder advocacy initiatives from the comfort of their homes or offices.

  • Brief introduction
    • What is advocacy
      • Definition
      • Highlight the governing bodies of helping professionals expectations for advocacy work from their active members 
      • Why is advocacy relevant to the eating disorder (ED) field?
        • Identify areas warranting ED advocacy
        • Identify barriers to ED advocacy
  • Advocacy in Action
    • Examples from presenters’ experiences and strengths
      • Alli – #ShakeIt for Self-Acceptance!® (describing origin, skills needed, challenges)
      • Lauren – 9 Truths (highlighting IAEDP’s participation; describing initial idea through production to PSA and the role of social media)
      • Kristine – World Eating Disorders Action Day (working with diverse eating disorder professionals and advocates to promote a unified message). Press Releases/Position Papers (highlighting impacts of initiatives).
  • Group activity
    • Large group activity
      • On white board, make a list of various skills and experience we each brought to the table for our advocacy experiences (highlighting the variety)
        • E.g. Alli—dance/choreography, production experience
        • E.g. Lauren—bringing people together, social media, synergy
        • E.g. Kristine—writing, consensus seeking
      • Have audience add skills to the list (e.g., blogging, writing, vision, etc.). Then ask them to privately identify 3 strengths they each have
    • Small group activity
      • Have small groups of audience members brainstorm around a cause of their choice that they see as needed in the field; then make an advocacy plan considering resources on the list and assets available in group (write an article, write a song, etc.),.If they don’t want to come up with their own cause, building on the “9 Truths About Eating Disorders” can be a option.
      • Close this portion with audience feedback about the experience.
  • Range of existing advocacy highlighted
    • Examples provided (virtual, live, small/large-scale, domestic and international initiatives)
  • Nuts and bolts
    • Considerations of coordinating traditional advocacy events are presented (e.g., rallies, special events, etc.)
    • Considerations of coordinating or participating in Internet advocacy (e.g., letter petitions, social media, etc.)
  • How YOU can be an advocate
    • Identify ways, big and small, professionals can advocate for effective change
    • Calendar of events provided 

While facing limited research funding and common public misunderstandings, the eating disorder field seems in need of thoughtful advocacy work to change the landscape of research, treatment, policy, and social responsibility.

Each presenter has individual experience in the advocacy realm. Additionally, all three were instrumental in the creation and dissemination of the “Nine Truths About Eating Disorders,” collaborating with IAEDP and eminent eating disorder organizations.

In this workshop, presenters define advocacy, provide past and present examples, and highlight the ethical obligation of helping professionals to partake in advocacy efforts. Areas warranting intervention and existing barriers in the eating disorder advocacy field are explored. Attendees will be actively engaged in identifying ways they can utilize their individual skills to develop advocacy initiatives relevant to the eating disorder field. Ways to harness available resources such as using social media and technology to increase the breadth of advocacy efforts will be presented for consideration. The dilemma of how to fit advocacy work into the busy schedule of a practitioner will be solved. Attendees will be invited to develop introspection into how they may most effectively contribute and address existing barriers to creating change.

A calendar of existing eating disorder advocacy opportunities will be provided to attendees as an invitation moving forward. After attending this workshop, attendees may also feel inspired and equipped to create or instigate advocacy efforts of their own.

Primary Presenter:
Alli Spotts-De Lazzer, MA, LMFT, LPCC, CEDS

Alli Spotts-De Lazzer, LMFT, LPCC, and CEDS, coauthored “Eating Disorders and Scope of Competence for Outpatient Psychotherapists,” published in Practice Innovations, a journal of the American Psychological Association. Her articles have also been published in The Therapist, Family Therapy Magazine, and Psychotherapy Networker. Alli has a private practice in the San Fernando Valley, California. She has presented on eating disorders at graduate schools, hospitals, and conferences. She is the co-chair of iaedp’s Communications Committee and AED’s Advocacy and Communications Committee. Alli is the creator of #ShakeIt for Self-Acceptance!®. For information: www.TherapyHelps.Us

Kristine Vazzano, PhD

Kristine Vazzano, PhD, maintains a private practice treating eating disorders in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She has spoken internationally on the use of technology in the treatment of eating disorders, binge eating disorder in adolescents, and advocacy and eating disorders. Dr. Vazzano serves as co-chair of the AED Advocacy and Communications Committee. In this role, she has led projects addressing the adverse impact of BMI testing in schools, weight stigma in adolescent television programming, and served on the steering committee for the 2016 inaugural World Eating Disorders Action Day. For information, visit

and Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS

Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS, coauthored “Eating Disorders and Scope of Competence for Outpatient Psychotherapists”. Lauren specializes in the provision of evidence-based treatment for eating disorders in the outpatient setting. She was originally trained in CBT for eating disorders by one of its developers and is certified in FBT. Dr. Muhlheim is Director of Outreach of the AED, is the Eating Disorders Expert for Verywell (formerly, and is Clinical Director of the Eating Disorder Information website, Mirror-Mirror Eating Disorders. She is an approved iaedp supervisor and has trained other clinicians in CBT for eating disorders. For information:

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