Beyond Eating Disorders on Campus
Two University of Arizona gems provide a foundation for the future
Famed anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Two enthusiastic health professionals working side by side at the University of Arizona (UA) provide a great example of what can be accomplished with dedication to a common purpose; in this case, using the college years to provide a strong foundation for lifelong self-care, nutritious eating, and self-esteem.
Currently UA staffs a custom-made Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment Team of four counselors, three registered dietitians, a sports psychologist, medical providers, and psychiatric care. But it didn’t start that way. Forty years ago when
UA initiated mental health counseling services for students, it was more like a diamond in the rough. Although the charter of the counseling service included a provision for helping students with eating disorders, neither of the original two mental health counselors held any special training in the field.
As awareness of eating disorder issues grew on campus, the need for more specialized services became evident. Counseling specific to eating disorders and disturbed body image was introduced, and eventually a multi-disciplinary Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment Team was formed as a partnership between the University Campus Health and Wellness Service, the Athletic Department, and Counseling and Psych Services.
The number of students seeking help for eating issues continued to increase, and two new positions were created: coordinator for Eating Disorder Services, and student health dietitian. Laura Orlich and Gale Welter Coleman were the dream team of therapist and dietitian who filled these newly created jobs, and that is when things really picked up momentum. Until Orlich’s retirement last year, these two powerhouses worked together to polish the UA Eating Disorder Services into what they are today.
Back when it was just the two of them, Orlich and Welter Coleman did it all. In addition to meeting individually with students, the two colleagues also provided case consultation, education, and therapeutic supervision for health center and athletic department staff members who, like most health professionals, had never before received training in the treatment of eating disorders.
Orlich led group therapy for students with eating issues and ensured that every new batch of counseling hires understood the importance of eating disorder expertise. Her first career as an educator for 21 years had instilled a love of learning, and she sought out advanced trainings related to eating disorders and shared the information with her staff. Her training at an inpatient eating disorder treatment facility contributed a commitment to gold standard quality assessment and treatment.
Welter Coleman joined UA as a newly minted registered dietitian. A former accountant and personal trainer in long-term recovery from body image obsession and disordered eating, she changed careers to help others recover and reclaim their lives. The UA dietitian position provided her an ideal platform for fulfilling this goal as well as for helping students on their own for the first time to mature into healthy adults.