Residential Treatment

Residential Treatment:

Rogers is a comprehensive psychiatric hospital, nationally recognized for specialty residential treatment programs for eating disorders, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders for children, teens and adults.

Life. Worth. Living.

May 16, 2016 - 12:44pm

Nashotah Program CanvasImagine leaving your job and family, picking up everything to move hundreds of miles away to enter treatment for your mental illness or addiction. You’ve been searching for months for a program that can help and for what feels like the hundredth time, a doctor tells you that you are in the right place. Do you believe it? Maybe not—but what if you heard from someone who has actually been there?

Across Rogers Behavioral Health, many prospective patients and families do. Some say there’s something more honest and encouraging about reassurance from someone that has experienced similar struggles and has been in the very program they are about to enter.

Handprints and marks of healing

At Rogers Behavioral Health–Nashville, all patients participate in a ‘”discharge circle” upon discharge from their program. The patient’s family, treatment team and fellow patients talk about the progress that person has made, provide encouraging words and more as they move into lower levels of care or out of programming.

“At the end of that circle, patients paint their hands, put their handprint on the wall of our experiential therapy room and write a quote next to their handprint,” says Kathryn Boyer, experiential therapist at Rogers–Nashville. “The handprint says ‘I was here and I made it through this’ and the quote provides inspiration for future patients.” Each is as individualized as the person who left it, but many have a common theme of finding peace with imperfection.

Staff members in Nashville first started the project for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and contamination anxiety, who, at the end of programming, would be able to paint their hands, give high-fives and avoid over-washing throughout the day. “When they first came to us, they were washing their hands up to 30 times per day, 15 minutes per time. Seeing them be able to do this upon discharge is amazing,” says Boyer.

Several patients have told Boyer the wall provides encouragement to get through programming, especially when first arriving for treatment. “New patients see the discharge circle and all the support that comes from everyone involved in the treatment process, and it’s been very beneficial.”

The large display of handprints is also inspirational for staff. “Some days can be difficult, but it always helps when I go into the experiential therapy room, think about the stories behind each handprint. I’ve learned so much from them,” says Boyer.

Child and adult patients at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer contribute to a similar project displaying painted handprints, semicolons and other marks as a sign of overcoming mental health challenges and completing treatment.

Letters and pictures of encouragement

Patients and loved ones of patients in Nashville also write letters of encouragement to future patients and families. “For patients, it feels like they’ve left something here,” says Boyer. “The greatest benefit I’ve seen is for parents whose children are entering treatment. When they see that patients have written something that talks about their progress, it gives them peace of mind.”

Children enrolled in Rogers Behavioral Health–Tampa Bay’s eating disorder partial hospital program and OCD and anxiety partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs , as well as Rogers Behavioral Health–Chicago’s child and adult programs also write letters to future patients. “In Tampa, we keep a book of letters in our office and share it with children and their parents as they begin acclimating to programming,” says Katie Merricks, behavioral specialist at Rogers–Tampa Bay.

But parents aren’t the only family members who benefit from the experience. “Many parents take a copy of their letter home to share with family members, friends and others in their lives so they too can understand what this process has been like,” says Merricks. “We’ve had siblings and grandparents write letters as well, so you really get many perspectives on the treatment process when reading the book.”

Sometimes, young patients choose to draw their personal reflections instead of writing. “The youngest person we’ve had make a letter was an eight-year-old, and it was mainly a drawing and a thank you,” says Merricks. “The handwritten letters and drawings are so much more personal.”

Merricks explains there’s something special about receiving encouragement from a former patient. “We can tell them, as clinicians, that they’re not alone and our treatment is great. But seeing a testimony from someone who’s shared a similar journey and struggles makes them feel so much more comfortable with trusting our care,” she says. “We have parents who pick up and move with their child across the country, leaving little ones and loved ones behind. The letters provide confirmation that they’re making the right decision.”

Canvasses to celebrate

Nashotah Program CanvasIn Nashotah, a residential dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program for high school girls with emotional dysregulation at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc, patients create their own graduation canvases which are displayed in the program’s community space. “The visual personal statements of their recovery journeys which the girls paint inspire others to complete the program,” says Lisa Herpolsheimer, manager of Nashotah.

As in Nashville, inspirational quotes play an important role in the project in Nashotah. “They often write a quote that is meaningful to them from the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills and philosophy, such as learning to accept themselves as they are fully and at the same time learning to change and grow,” she says. “Seeing peers finish their canvases makes the other girls look forward to painting their own.”

Herpolsheimer explains that seeing the canvasses also helps newcomers because, though the program can be challenging, it is manageable and they can be successful. “New patients relate well to the realness of the other girls as they see similar interests based on what their paintings represent,” she says. “The girls also look forward to seeing what their peers may choose to paint. Admiring the finished canvas is a way to celebrate recovery.”

May 12, 2016 - 1:38pm

Keeping Meals and Treatment FreshRogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc and Rogers Memorial Hospital–West Allis have been growing some of their own produce to help children and teen patients connect plant growth to their personal changes, reduce food avoidance and keep meals and seasonal treats tasting great. John Williams, director of dining services at Silver Lake Outpatient Center in Oconomowoc, WI, makes a point to include children from the Child Center and Adolescent Center when he grows the produce that will be used in their meals and other dishes at Silver Lake Outpatient Center.

“I believe that if I can get their hands working with food from soil forward, it can help patients with their transitions here at Rogers,” says Williams. “Exposing the kids to the growing process can help reduce their picky eating tendencies, since they’ve been hands-on with the food from its early stages.”

Williams began growing herbs such as oregano, thyme, sage, mint, green onions, cilantro and more on the Oconomowoc campus when he joined Rogers in May 2015. He incorporates all of the produce into dishes at the Oconomowoc and Silver Lake locations—including sauces, flatbreads and chicken meals to name a few. He explains that growing your own produce is also a great way to save. “Herbs can cost as much as $8 a pound and growing your own is a way to get that fresh taste for a low cost,” says Williams.

Patients also enjoy the sensory experience of growing their own plants. “We encourage the kids to pick the plants and taste them as they grow,” says Williams. “Some of the kids may have never grown plants before and it’s a wonderful new experience for them and will hopefully create some healthy habits that will carry over into their adulthood.”

For three years, Rogers’ West Allis location has been growing produce such as peppers, tomatoes and strawberries to showcase in their garden show held every June. Patients in Rogers’ West Allis day treatment program for children and partial hospitalization program for adolescents are involved in the entire process from the first planting to enjoying the harvest. “We talk about gardening in general as an excellent coping skill which helps decrease depression,” says Nancy Goranson, PsyD, attending psychologist at Rogers Memorial Hospital–West Allis. “It’s a positive family activity and helps young people learn responsibility because they have to regularly care for something outside of themselves.”

Dr. Goranson also explains that gardening helps patients learn that by taking small steps, they can achieve large accomplishments. “The commitment needed to water a plant daily, pull weeds, and enjoy the beauty of flowers or delicious food that results from this work helps our patients see that they can take daily steps to meet their program goals.”

The Rogers’ team has hopes to expand the gardening possibilities in the years to come. The dietary services team at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer plans on growing produce with patients for the first time this spring and Williams would like to increase the number of Rogers’ locations that garden. “It’d be great to eventually have tomato plants here in Oconomowoc or gardening space at the Eating Disorder Center in Delafield,” says Williams. “Now that we have the greenhouse in Oconomowoc, it’s going to be exciting to see how the patients grow alongside the produce they care for.”

May 6, 2016 - 10:54am

Honest, Open, ProudWhen a teen breaks a bone, friends and family often ask for “the story” of how the bone broke, how long it will take to heal and may even ask to sign the cast. But when a child is challenged with a mental health difficulty, it can be tricky for him or her to decide whether to share their journey, when to share it or how to share it. Wisconsin’s Initiative for Stigma Elimination (WISE) created a program—“ Honest, Open, Proud-High School” (HOP-HS)—to proactively empower teens to make thoughtful decisions about disclosing their story.

“HOP-HS helps teens in grades 8-12 who have faced a mental health challenge, whether or not they have a formal diagnosis,” says Sue McKenzie, co-director of Rogers InHealth . “In a series of five sessions lasting an hour each, teens practice skills for reversing their hurtful ‘self-talk’ and take a deep look at the costs and benefits of talking to others in various settings such as work, school or with friends.”

Suzette Urbashich , co-director of Rogers InHealth, explains that not every child makes the decision to disclose. “But for situations where the teen does decide to share their challenges and strengths, the program helps prepare them to respond to unanticipated reactions,” she says. “One month after the initial sessions, the group re-convenes for a check-in session to see how things are going.”

Program facilitators are being trained across Wisconsin to implement HOP-HS, helping teens assess the story they tell themselves about their journey and to draft a version of their story to begin shaping and reshaping for various audiences. Key concepts explored in the training include the five levels of disclosure:

  • Isolation: teens may separate themselves from friends and family, feeling that they are alone in their journey
  • Secrecy: fearful of showing weakness, youth may develop a persona to disguise their pain or difficulty even to those closest to them
  • Selective Disclosure: teens may chose “safe” or trusted people to share their struggles with, such as a parent, which can give a child the confidence to share their story with more people who can offer support or tell them they are not alone
  • Indiscriminate Disclosure: a teen feels confident enough to discuss their mental health journey with people that may react negatively
  • Full Disclosure: youth feel comfortable discussing their story with all people, not only to help themselves, but to help others

McKenzie explains that HOP-HS was adapted from an adult version of the program, originally created by Patrick Corrigan, PsyD. “As WISE began using the program, we realized that a key age group was missing from the HOP suite of programs: youth,” she says. “So, WISE partnered with Corrigan to develop a version of the program that would be relevant to high schoolers.”

The evidence-based adult version of the program demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in stigmatizing attitudes about self and others with mental illness, a decrease in depressive symptoms and anxiety about disclosure, as well as an increased willingness to seek help. “Sharing one’s story isn’t a simple decision. It requires careful thought and support,” says Urbashich. “HOP-HS guides youth to develop the strategic disclosure skills they need to make the daily decisions of if, what and to whom to disclose.”

According to McKenzie, there are plans to enhance the program in the future. “We hope to increase the number of trained HOP facilitators throughout the state, conduct randomized controlled trial research, collect data and share the program nationally and internationally,” she says. “To increase involvement and awareness about the program, Suzette and I have begun presenting at state-wide and out-of-state conferences. This March, we attended the 29th Annual Research and Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health in Tampa, FL, to share the program on a national level—which was very exciting.”

On May 25, 2016, a HOP-HS facilitator training session will be held in Oconomowoc, WI. To find a HOP program facilitator in your area or to be trained as a facilitator, contact

April 22, 2016 - 12:27pm

Experiential therapy globeExperiential therapy globeFor some, having a mental illness can feel like you’re caged by a monster, leaving you unable to participate in the daily activities that you would like to engage in. That is the metaphor that Ashley Samson, experiential therapist at Rogers Behavioral Health–Chicago, started with in December 2015 when she designed new projects for her patients. Over time, that metaphor was adjusted to be more relevant to the different patient age groups in Skokie, IL.

“When each patient attends their first experiential therapy group at Rogers–Chicago, he or she is offered the opportunity to visually track their progress,” says Samson. “The children and teens enrolled in the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs record their personal growth with ‘freedom balloons.’”

Using dry-erase markers, Samson draws balloons on the window of the experiential therapy room as a space for each child to collect their successes and share with others. “The children write down what they’re proud of that session on their balloons, whether it be the completion of an exposure or an accomplishment that gets them one step closer towards their treatment goal or discharge,” she says. “The freedom balloons help the kids display a sense of pride and share their successes against the ‘monster’ or disorder that has held them captive.”

Samson adapted the metaphor for adults with OCD enrolled in the partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs and FOCUS partial hospital program. “When our adult patients first arrive, they are given a clear ornament, which we refer to as a ‘progress globe,’” she says. “During check-in, each patient creates a handwritten note of personal success or finds a small object that represents their positive change and puts it in their globe. Our adult patients usually prefer to be more private than our younger patients about tracking their accomplishments, so the globes were a way to continue the metaphor in a more reserved way.”

Upon discharge, patients can take their globe home as a token of their achievements or smash the globe if they wish to shift the metaphor toward reclaiming their freedom from their mental illness. “It can be helpful for many patients to see and feel their progress as tangible objects,” says Samson. “These simple traditions are a wonderful way for patients to see that even small successes like coming to treatment on time or completing an exposure can add up to increased confidence and a greater sense of pride in their hard work.”

According to Samson, one patient who started a progress globe decided to continue higher level treatment at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc before returning to outpatient programming in Skokie. “When I asked her whether she’d like to take her globe with her or leave it at our clinic, she told me that she’d prefer we held onto it for her as a ‘place-keeper’ or personal reminder that she would be back to continue her journey to wellness.”

April 19, 2016 - 12:16pm

Mental Health Month, organized by Mental Health America and their affiliates, is a national observance recognized each May that reaches millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. Now is a great time to raise awareness, fight mental health stigma and learn more about:

Early Detection of Mental Illness

11 common signs of mental illness in children

Horticultural therapy and its natural healing properties

Tino Family

Stories of Recovery

Sharing Your Story

Our locations in Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois and Minnesota are all recognizing Mental Health Month in their own way—showing support and advocacy for those we care for and their families. Check it out on Facebook and Twitter!

Show us what you’re doing to celebrate Mental Health Month on social media!

  • Have you created an art project to embody your journey with mental illness?
  • Is there an inspirational quote or message about mental health that you want others to know?
  • Is there a common misconception that people have about your illness?

April 13, 2016 - 1:52pm

Post-detox treatmentMany adults wrongly believe that once they complete their detox treatment, they will immediately be freed from their drug or alcohol addiction. Beth Shaw, counselor, addiction intensive outpatient program at Rogers Memorial Hospital’s Lincoln Center Outpatient Center in West Allis, knows the work has just begun.

“When patients first come to our addiction intensive outpatient program, many of them don’t understand how deadly their disease is or how much power it has over them,” she says. “Many patients mistakenly think that the physical pain of going through detox will be the hardest part of their journey to recovery, but the real work comes afterwards in post-detox treatment.”

While patients receive inpatient care or residential treatment, they may have temporary protection from many of their outside stressors. “Patients live in somewhat of an artificial world before they get to an intensive outpatient program,” Shaw says. “They don’t have contact with those who helped facilitate their addiction or many of the triggers that caused them to abuse drugs or alcohol, which means that we have to address these issues in the intensive outpatient program while they have connections to the outside world.”

Many of Shaw’s patients have a family history of addiction, abuse, neglect or other emotional issues. “Family sessions play a major role in our program—not only to form a solid support network for the patient, but to bring to light any underlying family problems that may have caused the patient to find an unhealthy coping mechanism,” she says.

Once patients begin treatment in the intensive outpatient program, they often find that the program is not the intimidating experience they might have expected. “Our patients quickly realize that the treatment team isn’t here to tell them they’re ‘bad people’ or scold them for their addiction,” says Shaw. “They see people with similar struggles and realize they are not the only ones with this disease.”

Shaw explains that the group therapy sessions in the program help create a sense of accountability. “I’ve heard over and over again how patients thought about giving up, closed their eyes and pictured the faces of those in their group therapy,” she says. “Then they realize that the treatment team and those in their group are all ‘in this together.’”

The specialized treatment available at Rogers Memorial Hospital gives patients an advantage, Shaw believes. “An obsessive-compulsive disorder consult is two doors down from my office. Having speedy access to specialized treatment gives patients more complete care,” she says. “Rogers works hard to find solutions for patients, including those with ‘difficult cases.’”

March 15, 2016 - 1:04pm

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about one-third of people with mental illness also experience substance abuse—meaning that they have a “dual diagnosis.” Amy Kuechler, PsyD, attending psychologist for the adolescent dual diagnosis program at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer, explains that teens with mental illness—such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety or trauma—may be even more susceptible to substance abuse.

“There are a few reasons why teens may be more susceptible to use substances,” she says. “The adolescent brain is not fully developed, so teens struggle to consider the consequences of their behaviors and instead respond to immediate gratification—like the immediate high from substance abuse. Teens also test ways to separate themselves from their families and place more importance on their peer relationships and ‘fitting in.’”

What’s especially concerning is how accessible many substances are for teens to use to get high. “Many parents are unaware that products in their home are commonly abused by teens, such as over-the-counter cough medicine or various aerosol cans.” These substances are easy to find, legal to use and many can be purchased online.

Dr. Kuechler explains that unhealthy habits formed in adolescence have a good chance of carrying over into adulthood. “Ninety percent of adult substance abusers started using substances in their teens with fifty percent starting before the age of 15,” she says. “This is important to note because early treatment and intervention are potentially the key to prevention.”

If your teen abuses substances, Dr. Kuechler suggests looking for common warning signs of mental illnesses commonly associated with dual diagnosis:

  • Increased isolation and withdrawal from activities your teen used to enjoy
  • Increased moodiness, particularly increased irritability and argumentativeness
  • More secretive behaviors, lack of motivation
  • Truancy at school, difficulty with authority or increased interactions with law enforcement
  • Associating with a new group of friends
  • Lying, stealing, cheating or manipulating
  • Changes in sleep patterns or appetite

According to Dr. Kuechler, both disorders in a dual diagnosis should be treated simultaneously because they are often related. “If only one disorder is treated, there’s a good chance symptoms of the untreated disorder will increase,” she says. “For example, someone who is struggling with alcohol abuse and depression may manage their depressive symptoms through drinking. If the person’s treatment only focuses on stopping their excessive drinking, there’s a possibility they may learn to deal with their depression through another unhealthy strategy, while never truly addressing the underlying issue.”

Rogers Memorial Hospital’s adolescent dual diagnosis program is based in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI), which are evidence-based techniques. “We start by using MI as a therapeutic strategy that encourages teens to develop a desire to make changes in their lives and become active in their treatment,” she says. “Then we focus on using CBT to help teens understand that their thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all related. By changing just one of those things, the whole dynamic of how they live their lives can be changed.”

Rogers offers various individualized, comprehensive partial hospital and intensive outpatient dual diagnosis programs for teens and adults at multiple Wisconsin locations including Oconomowoc, Brown Deer, West Allis, Kenosha and Madison. The adolescent dual diagnosis partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs at Brown Deer are Rogers’ first offering for that age group and are clearly serving a need. “Overall, we are teaching adolescents that they have the power to improve their lives and the way they see the world,” says Dr. Kuechler.


March 11, 2016 - 10:40am

Five clinical leaders from Rogers Behavioral Health will share their insights at the 2016 Anxiety and Depression Conference in Philadelphia, PA, sponsored by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

“ADAA is one of the leading conferences that focuses on anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depressive disorders where researchers and clinicians from throughout the world convene to share ideas,” says Eric Storch, PhD, clinical director of Rogers Behavioral Health–Tampa Bay and a Morsani College of Medicine professor. 

“The ADAA annual meeting is unique because it brings together the top researchers and top clinicians in the world for the purpose of improving the way we treat, someday cure and prevent the suffering caused by the disorders related to anxiety and depression,” adds Karen Cassiday, PhD, clinical director of Rogers Behavioral Health–Chicago and president of the ADAA.

Rogers’ presenters will offer their insight on the following topics. The full schedule is available online:

  • Dr. Cassiday will chair the roundtable, “Taming Treatment-Refractory Situations: Hot Tips for Clinicians with Difficult Cases,” with Dr. Storch as a presenter on family accommodation;
  • Dr. Cassiday is the primary presenter for the workshop session, “What if I die? Overcoming Health Anxiety in Kids and their Parents,” and the roundtable, “Exposures Uncut: Challenges Faced When Conducting Exposures With Children and Adolescents;”
  • Dr. Storch is one of the presenters in the roundtable, “Effective, Essential Therapist-Prescribing Clinician Collaboration in the Treatment of OCD: An Expert Roundtable Discussion,” and the symposium, “Advances in Intensive Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Anxious Youth;”
  • Jerry Halverson, MD, medical director of Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc and FOCUS adult mood disorders programs, and Rachel Leonard, PhD, clinical supervisor of FOCUS, will co-present a workshop session, “Multi-Modal Residential Treatment for Individuals Struggling to Transition into Adulthood due to Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety;
  • Dr. Halverson is a co-presenter in the symposium, “Focal Brain Stimulation: Practical Considerations for the Clinician;”
  • Dr. Leonard is among the distinguished list of presenters in the Ignite symposium session, “Increasing the Effectiveness of Intensive/Residential Treatment Models for OCD Across the Lifespan;” and
  • David Jacobi, PhD, clinical supervisor of the Child Center, is one of the presenters in the roundtable, “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Lessons Learned From Treatment ‘Failures.’"

As expected, Rogers’ specialists are eager to share their knowledge with others in the field. “A workshop Dr. Jerry Halverson and I are presenting discusses treatment for individuals struggling to transition into adulthood due to their depression and anxiety—these individuals are often characterized as experiencing ‘failure to launch,’” says Dr. Leonard. “The transitional period of time between adolescence and adulthood is characterized by high rates of depression, often with other co-occurring disorders, so identifying treatments that target the needs of this unique population is incredibly important.”

Stephanie Eken, MD, regional medical director, and national outreach representatives Blair McAnany and Rick Ramsay will attend the conference as representatives of Rogers Behavioral Health. 

Rogers’ specialists will also be available at our exhibit table to answer programming questions at the following times:

  • Dr. Storch, Friday, April 1, from 9-10 a.m. and Saturday, April 2, from 11 a.m.-noon.
  • Dr. Leonard, Friday, April 1, from 10-11 a.m. and Saturday, April 2, from 9-10 a.m.
  • Dr. Eken, Friday, April 1, from 10:30-11 a.m.
  • Dr. Jacobi, Friday, April 1, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 2, from 9-10 a.m.
  • Dr. Halverson will be available for much of the conference
March 8, 2016 - 8:03am

Phoenix Comfort RoomSince childhood, many of us have known that it’s important to be a good host—whether that means offering a refreshing beverage or the softest seat in the house. When children, teens and adults seek treatment at any of our locations, we strive to treat them as we would want our own friends and family to be treated. A team of care providers at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer felt that they could do more to be hospitable to children and teens when experiencing difficult times during treatment. 

When youth are enrolled in programming in Brown Deer, WI, and various other locations, a “comfort room” is available for patients as an environment to wind down in and practice coping skills learned in treatment. “The idea of the comfort rooms are great, but the rooms at our location had blank white walls and made some patients a bit nervous,” says Josh Larson, an art therapist at Rogers–Brown Deer. “We wanted the kids to enjoy being in the room and feel like it was a safe space, but the room’s appearance wasn’t allowing that to happen.”

So, a team of four art therapists, one recreation therapist and one mental health practitioner came to Heather Hodorowski, manager of experiential therapy at Rogers–Brown Deer, with a proposal. “Staff expressed that they wanted to create purposeful murals in the comfort rooms,” says Hodorowski. “I was proud that they wanted to fit the project into their regular work schedule and I was impressed with their initiative—so, I gave them the tools to run with the idea.”

The planning process incorporated the entire treatment team at Brown Deer. “I sent out a survey for naming the child and adolescent treatment tracks and the team decided on “Lotus” for the children and “Phoenix” for the teens. Then those involved with creating the murals naturally incorporated those images into the comfort rooms,” says Hodorowski. “We often use the metaphor that even though lotus flowers flourish in the mud, they still have the ability to rise above the surface. The phoenix represents regeneration, growth and technique development for moving forward with anxiety, depression or psycho-social stressors.”

Lotus Comfort RoomOnce the mural ideas were decided on, staff were eager to get to work. “We agreed that using bold, cool-colored earth tones would be more likely to offer a calming effect than other colors,” says Larson. “We each took turns picking up a paintbrush whenever we had spare time and after 110 hours of painting, the project was complete.”

Hodorowski explains that staff have already seen a major impact in the way children and teens accept the rooms. “The comfort rooms finally live up to their name and are actually popular among our patients,” she says. “We’ve found that they’re more willing to speak up and ask for ten minutes to spend in the room until they feel more prepared to continue treatment than they were before.”

“The comfort room also offers another way for patients to interpret their therapy and connect what they hear in group throughout the day,” adds Larson. “Visualizing what is discussed in therapy can be beneficial for children or teens who learn better with imagery.” In the future, staff at Brown Deer hope to create murals in the comfort rooms of the child and adolescent day treatment and adult inpatient programs. 

February 26, 2016 - 11:53am

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week, countless people from around the country will share their stories of recovery to reduce mental health stigma, encourage others to get a screening, raise awareness and even help in their own healing process. Since anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, bulimia, and other eating disorders affect all ages, genders and races, you might already expect that each person’s eating disorder journey is as unique as they are. But you may not expect the complete mind, body and soul transformation that each person undergoes on their path to wellness. 

Mari’s Story

For college students who are balancing school, athletics, work and family responsibilities, life can be challenging enough. But for Mari, her obsessive dieting and exercise routines put a strain on her body and mind that was greater than any final exam or conference championship could ever have done.

As an eager college freshman, Mari began taking courses at the University of Wisconsin–Stout in September 2013, hoping to one day earn her degree in dietetics. She always had a passion for living a healthy and active lifestyle, so it was no surprise when Mari made the university’s tennis team as well. With so much going for her, Mari had only a promising future ahead, but then things got more complicated during Mari’s first winter break at home. 

“I noticed that I had gained a few pounds, only a few, and I felt something switch inside of me,” says Mari. “I started to feel really insecure about myself and I felt myself becoming more conscientious and aware of my weight.” Like many young adults who gain a little weight their freshman year, Mari thought it was something that could easily be solved by dieting and maintaining an active routine. But as a year passed and her disordered eating progressed, Mari’s family began to notice how dangerously thin she’d become. 

“My family had expressed concern for my health, but it wasn’t until I had two menstrual periods in one month that I realized my body wasn’t well internally—so then I decided to visit my school’s clinic,” says Mari. “The doctor who I was scheduled with had done my physical exam for the tennis team the year before. When she saw me, she immediately knew that something was wrong and ran an EKG and other tests.”

After realizing the severity of Mari’s symptoms, as well as her progressing heart failure, Mari’s physician suggested that she seek professional treatment. Mari says it wasn’t until she received a feeding tube in Rogers Memorial Hospital’s inpatient program in Oconomowoc, WI, that she realized anorexia nervosa had taken over her behaviors. 

Emily’s story

Not all people immediately realize the severity of their eating disorder when they first begin treatment. That was the case for Emily, another young college student.

“I began seeing a psychiatrist my junior year of high school for my anorexia, which had begun to develop when I was ten years old,” says Emily. “I also received treatment in an inpatient program, but I put a lot of effort into convincing my family and my doctor that I had been restricting my diet for attention—that I didn’t really have an eating disorder. I became very good at tricking myself and others, but in reality my life revolved around the personal list I had made on ‘How to Be Perfect.’”

When Rogers began offering eating disorder services close to Emily’s home in Tampa, FL, her psychiatrist suggested that she try the more intensive treatment available at Rogers Behavioral Health. Emily agreed, “I decided that this would be my ‘practice run’ for taking treatment seriously.”

After taking a semester off of school and work, Emily was ready to fully commit to her wellness. When Emily met her treatment team in Tampa’s partial hospital program, she realized that she could no longer remain emotionally disengaged. “Right away, my team knew that I needed help creating an emotional baseline and they developed an ‘emotion wheel’ that I still use today to help express what I’m feeling,” she says. 

While in treatment, Emily found great help from her group therapy sessions, her faith, and her family. “Even now, when I sit at the dinner table and feel myself struggling with a certain food, my little brother looks up at me with the biggest smile because he knows when I need the extra reassurance,” says Emily. “And that’s enough to help me stay on track.” 

Denise’s story

Not all people with eating disorders like Emily and Mari are college-aged, female, or even have the support that comes with living with parents and siblings. Rogers is known for its treatment of males with eating disorders, and Denise represents the less stereotypical older woman with these challenges.

At the time, Denise was a mother in her mid-twenties when she had a conversation with a friend about purging and decided that it might be a good way to get back to her pre-baby weight. “I had four kids and I hadn’t gotten any results from dieting,” she says. “What started out as my method for weight loss eventually turned into a pattern of binging and purging up to 20 times a day, for 15 years.”

In Denise’s early forties, she developed depression after experiencing an “empty nest,” which caused her to lose her appetite. With no desire to eat, Denise’s bulimia was replaced with anorexia nervosa. Still believing that she didn’t have an eating disorder, Denise lost consciousness while driving her daughter. Her daughter then grabbed the wheel and steered them both to safety from the passenger seat. 

“It wasn’t until I began receiving residential treatment at the Eating Disorder Center that I began to acknowledge that I had an eating disorder,” she says. “While receiving treatment and doing a lot of personal discovery, I found out a lot of the reasons of why I had an eating disorder. I always say that my birth certificate says ‘Rogers’ on it.”

Moving forward

Denise says she learned a lot from both younger patients like Mari and Emily, as well as middle-aged patients like herself. “I also found that the art therapy I received brought out feelings in me that I didn’t realize I had,” she says. “At first, the thought of creating art was scary, but I found out that I’m actually pretty creative. Today I create mosaics, I’ve illustrated a children’s book and I’ve even written my own book.”

Emily has found that she continues to make progress in her recovery by sharing her story and donating her time to others. “It’s so rewarding for me to volunteer in the Tampa community and right now I’m a mentor at a girl’s juvenile facility,” she says. “People who have really changed my life were complete strangers to me and I want to continue sharing my faith and my experience with others.”

Mari has also emerged from her treatment transformed with a newfound career choice and personal cause. “Because of the treatment I received at Rogers, I’ve changed my major from dietetics to psychology,” she says. “My family and I can’t believe how far I’ve come and I’m just so passionate about eating disorder treatment that I want to be dedicated to this my entire life. I know I’ve already touched lives and I just want to continue to give hope to other people.”



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