Jen, you are a true inspiration to me, and have been a voice of wisdom and a mentor to me in many ways ever since we first met. Today you are the National Training Manager for the Renfrew Center, and have the awesome challenge and opportunity to mentor women all over the country coordinating Renfrew’s Alumni program. You also do a lot of work teaching other women to step into mentoring shoes as they transition through treatment. We are also grateful at MentorCONNECT to have you as an expert resource on our Advisory Board. Can you tell us about a few of your own mentors who have helped you along the way, and share some of the wisdom they have passed along to you that you now enjoy passing on to others?
I do two things. My actual title is the National Training Manager for The Renfrew Center. This means, I go around the country and I speak to professionals about treating eating disorders. I am also the coordinator of our alumni programs and services at Renfrew (this is not an official title but I am the head person for this).
One of my main mentors professionally has been Gayle Brooks who is the Clinical Director of The Renfrew Center of Florida and the VP of Clinical Services at The Renfrew Center organization. I probably have learned the most from her about leadership. She has taught me about thinking outside of the box and about listening to my own truth even when others are in disagreement.
Another mentor of mine, Susan Kleinman, dance movement therapist extraordinaire who has taught me about both creativity and structure simultaneously through developing workshops together. She has helped me to expand my own creativity through trusting myself.
Really who has taught me about eating disorders is my clients! I have learned the most from them about eating disorders and the healing process.
You have told me that you have a special passion for mentoring and for Renfrew’s alumni program. You see firsthand the challenges that Renfrew’s alumni face and often stay connected with them for years as they continue in their journey, even hosting traveling to see them and hosting local outreach events in their home communities. Unfortunately, not every program offers this level of connection yet as their alumni graduate, and you have also said that one of the biggest reasons alumni do not continue to make progress after returning home is because they lack support.
Do you have any advice for readers who may be in the process of graduating from treatment about how to plan for continued success and stay connected to supportive resources as they return home?
Yes, my first recommendation is to stay connected! Often when I hear that people have relapsed one reason is often that they stopped seeing their treatment team and they began to try to do recovery all on their own. It very important to have a team who knows eating disorders and is multidisciplinary, even if you feel that you already had a great deal of treatment in a higher level of care. Often the work really begins, once you are in your home environment and have to begin practicing all that you learned in treatment to your everyday life.
It is also really important to create healthy community. Often what I hear from the women at Renfrew, is that one of the most healing aspects of treatment was meeting women like them who understood their struggles and understood them. They shared a common language. This can also be more challenging to create in one’s life, but it is possible. Surrounding yourself with others who are also committed to recovery and their well-being is key. There are often groups in one’s area and even on-line support. This is why program such as our alumni program at Renfrew (*we also invite non-alumni to participate in our workshops and webinars as well) and MentorCONNECT can be so valuable.
That is so exciting, Jen – for readers who may not be Renfrew alumni, can you say a bit more about how non-alumni can participate in workshops as well as the new webinar series you are hosting this Fall?
The workshops and webinars offered through The Renfrew Center are also open to non-alumni. We wanted to offer services to the greater community not just those individuals who are already familiar with our programs. The last workshop that I did in Boston, we had more non-alumni than alumni who attended. Thus, for anyone who is reading this, you can log onto our website www.renfrewcenter.com and to keep posted about our upcoming events and that you are invited to attend these events many of which are free.
You are currently hosting an exciting new recovery webinar series that is free to participants. Can you tell us a bit more about the series, upcoming dates and guests, and how readers can register for these valuable free events?
The webinars are a really great way to receive free treatment right from your very own living room! I always co-facilitate the webinars with someone in recovery, many times this is a Renfrew alumni and sometimes it is not such as our next webinar with Johanna Kandel. You can log right onto www.renfrewcenter.com to find out more information The webinars are typically one hour long and include experiential exercises and a chance for participants to ask questions at the end. Two other exciting events that are coming up shortly are:
Our next upcoming webinars are going to be really great! The next one is with Johanna Kandel who recently published her first book called “Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder“. (more on Johanna in an upcoming Mentoring & Recovery featurette!) In this workshop, Johanna will share some of her own story of recovery and we will also be focusing on coping skills to maintain long-term recovery. That webinar will take place Tues, Sept 21st at noon and Wed, Sept 23 at 8pm
The next webinar in October with Kristen Moelle will focus on her book, “Waiting for Jack and Julia.” Kristen will share about creating positive body image and how to successfully manage the holidays. That webinar will take place Tues, Oct 19th at noon and Wed, Oct 20th at 8pm
You and I have had several conversations about the power of choosing a positive “I can” approach to everyday life, and since I first met you this is exactly how I have experienced you – so positive, so enthusiastic, so full of energy and courage and hope! But we have also talked about how much effort and determination it takes to interact with life this way and approach even the most difficult obstacles from this perspective. Can you tell us a bit about how you maintain such a positive, pro-active approach?
I think life is about the lessons we learn. We don’t always get to choose the experiences we have, such as for some having an eating disorder, but we do always get to say the kind of attitude we can have about what we face in life.
Jen, thank you so much for sharing more about your passion for mentoring with us here on “Mentoring & Recovery.” In closing, are there any final words of encouragement you would like to share with our readers?
I also believe that there is so much to be grateful for in life. Life can change in an instant. If you are listening to this, whether you are struggling or not, you have the ability to want to hear this message and to try and get help. This is even something to be grateful for. It is having an attitude of gratitude…once you start seeing the world through this lens, you will begin seeing what is right in life and with yourself. The harder times will just be opportunities to grow and change, to become more of who you really are and to expand you know yourself to be.