Episode 76: Mary Tantillo and Staff: Multifamily Therapy Groups

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Today, Kathy is joined by Mary Tantillo, Michelle Morales, and Jennifer Dry De Santo, and they discuss the benefits of multifamily therapy group for recovery from anorexia nervosa. As these guests are different stakeholders in a multifamily therapy group, we learn how these types of groups develop a “therapeutic village” and a community of healing.

Dr. Mary Tantillo is a Professor of Clinical Nursing at the University of Rochester School of Nursing and a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Dr. Tantillo has devoted over 30 years to working with adolescents and adults with eating disorders and their families in a variety of clinical and community settings. Dr. Tantillo is a fellow and previous board member of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED). She served as chairperson for the AED Credentialing Task Force that provided clinical recommendations for eating disorders inpatient and residential treatment adopted by CARF and The Joint Commission. She also served as the co-chairperson for the AED Patient/Carer Committee and was awarded the Meehan-Hartley Award for Public Service and Advocacy by the AED in 2010.

Since 2005 Dr. Tantillo has been the Director of the Western New York Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders (WNYCCCED), one of three NY State Department of Health-funded CCCED’s legislatively mandated to ensure prevention, early identification and intervention services, care management, education of laypersons and professionals, and continuous and comprehensive care for individuals with eating disorders and their family members in the 30 counties of Western NY.  As part of this work she initiated Project ECHO® Eating Disorders in January 2017 to connect primary care, behavioral health care, and college health care practitioners to provide them with specialty knowledge about eating disorders and multidisciplinary consultation. Practitioners learn from presentations of cases, as well as didactic instruction provided by an expert team comprised of WNYCCCED multidisciplinary practitioners, a care manager, parent peer mentor (and mother of a young adult with an eating disorder) and a person in recovery. Project ECHO® Eating Disorders aims to eliminate geographic barriers, reduce disparities in health care delivery, and promote early identification and intervention, as well as integrated, coordinated and continuous care.

Additionally, in 2010 Dr. Tantillo founded The Healing Connection (THC), a free-standing, NY State Office of Mental Health-licensed Eating Disorders Partial Hospitalization Program for adults and adolescents in Fairport, NY.  She owned, operated, and clinically directed The Healing Connection from 2010-2013, and then transitioned the program into a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit corporation. THC is now based in Rochester, NY and is home to a full outpatient arm of eating disorder services including partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient clinic treatment. Dr. Tantillo remained the Clinical Director of THC till 2015 and CEO till 2016. She is now a permanent founding board member.

Dr. Tantillo has special clinical and research interests in the areas of prevention, women’s mental health, group treatment, and family-based treatment for eating disorders.  Over the past 10 years she partnered with patients and families to develop a new and innovative relationally and motivationally-informed multifamlly therapy group approach to treating Anorexia Nervosa in young adults called “Reconnecting for Recovery.” Dr. Tantillo is currently engaged in a research study funded by a grant from the Hilda and Preston Davis Foundation to pilot this intervention and refine its present treatment manual.

Michelle Morales has been the Parent Peer Mentor for the Western NY Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders (WNYCCCED) since 2014. The WNYCCCED is one of three Department of Health –funded CCCED’s in NY State that ensures comprehensive, coordinated and continuous care for individuals with eating disorders and their families. As a Parent Peer Mentor, Michelle has used her lived experience to assist parents and other family members to identify needs and help them achieve goals related to supporting their loved one with an eating disorder.  Ms. Morales provides education and support to patients by organizing and conducting weekly educational workshops, acting as a parent advocate and mentor,  co-facilitating parenting and multi-family groups at a local eating disorder facility, offering individual skill building sessions, and facilitating a monthly community-based parent support group. Ms. Morales also works with various medical treatment teams to be the liaison for the families as they navigate the complexities of caring for their loved one. She has participated in numerous governmental advocacy opportunities to educate legislators, insurance companies, educators, counselors and   healthcare providers about the special circumstances families find themselves in as caretakers. Michelle promotes and advocates the belief that families have a significant role in their loved ones recovery.

Jennifer Dry De Santo BS, MSEd

Eating Disorder Care Manager
Western New York Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders

As the eating disorder care manager for the Western NY Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders, Jennifer spends part of her time providing care management services to patients and families receiving treatment throughout Western New York, including Golisano Children’s Hospital and The Healing Connection INC. Her other time is spent offering eating disorder skills based support groups to families, caregivers, and adult patients. Prior to transitioning to the field of eating disorders, Jennifer spent time working as a school counselor. She has been involved with eating disordered work since 2005 as the Coordinator of Sage House, which was a residential home for women in treatment for eating disorders. She is very knowledgeable about community resources and works diligently to keep patients and families engaged in treatment. She is a strong patient and family advocate working hard to connect them with the resources they require to move ahead with recovery. Jennifer has spent the past 20 years working with individuals with general psychiatric difficulties, the chemically addicted, and the homeless. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from SUNY Plattsburgh, a Masters in Counseling Education from SUNY Brockport, and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Education in Mental Health Counseling & Supervision at the University Of Rochester Warner School Of Education.

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