In this series, Eating Disorder Hope Founder, Jacquelyn Ekern, interviews Chase Banister of the Eating Disorders Coalition to discuss the work they have been doing.
For Part 1 of this 4-part series, Chase discusses his experience as an eating disorder therapist, advocate, founder of treatment centers, and current President of the Eating Disorders Coalition Board of Directors.
How Chase Banister Built a Career in Eating Disorder Treatment and Advocacy Work
CB: Hello, my name is Chase Banister. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Therapist. I have been doing this for a number of years, working as a clinician in eating disorders.
I started at Duke University Counseling and Psychological Services back in the day as a Graduate Clinician in training. I can recall vividly the day in class when I was told, “do the things you know you can do well, work with just about anyone, but, whatever you do – don’t treat eating disorders.”
At the time, I didn’t know anything about eating disorders. There really was no curriculum around the United States for mental health providers, psychiatrists, physicians, or nurses around eating disorders.
So, I took that to heart and thought, “I won’t do that.” Lo-and-behold, I go to Duke, and they place me with a supervisor who was an Eating Disorder Specialist and Therapist. I felt stuck because I thought, “this wasn’t how it was supposed to go,” and I had this fear from stigmas that had been told to me that “these patients don’t want to get better.”
My supervisor assured me I didn’t have to work with eating disorder patients and could do general populations, and she really just lied straight to my face because, within about two weeks, my entire caseload was suddenly full of university and graduate students with eating disorders.
Grateful for the Deception
I am very grateful for that lie because it opened an opportunity for me to work with some of the most creative, passionate, wonderful human beings in pain. The university environment is a place where eating disorders love to thrive.
I soon learned that something wasn’t clicking between what I was told and who I was treating because so many of my patients wanted to get better. This population was supposed to be “difficult to work with,” and I, frankly, got a little mad about the stories that had been passed along through clinical generations about these patients.
I began realizing that it is likely this bias that was told to me that is the reason we are underserving this population. I was seeing that the old ideas of these patients being “difficult,” eating disorders being “a rich white person’s disease,” were absolutely untrue.
After finishing my residency there, I went to start Carolina House, a residential treatment center for women with eating disorders in Durham, North Carolina. It started out as a 6-bed facility, then grew to 8, then 12, then 16.
I soon learned that the need was enormous, and this need increased when we realized the age demographics we were seeing. When we opened Carolina House, we were treating folks 17-year-old and older.
Soon, we were receiving applications for treatment from folks whose handwriting appeared to be different from the script I would expect from adults. Sure enough, families were “fudging” on their children’s names to try to get them into care because they were so desperate for somewhere to care for their child.
Many of these families had tried what is first-line care and one of the “best practices” of treatment – Family Based Therapy and it hadn’t worked well for them. Once we recognized this need, we knew we needed to start something new, so I became the founder of Veritas Collaborative, a specialty healthcare hospital for the treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders.
Helped Craft Legislation
It has since grown to treat all ages at all levels of care, and there are hospitals in Atlanta, Durham, Richmond, Charlotte, and beyond. As part of my work at Veritas, I was privileged to become part of the larger eating disorders community and join the board of the Eating Disorders Coalition and help craft the legislation that ultimately became the 21st Century Cures Act.
This was the first time eating disorder was recognized and written into federal law. At the end of 2016, it was the last bill that President Obama signed before leaving office.
I spent a great deal of time traveling back-and-forth to Washington, DC, meeting with and learning from folks, meeting with providers and treatment centers, and hearing about what they need.
Through the years, I have met with families and even had to eulogize too many children, which is an incredibly painful honor. Eating disorder is a deadly silent killer, and as I learned more and met more people, I realized that we needed to do better, and we needed to do more.
It was then that I was asked to serve in the role of President of the Eating Disorders Coalition Board of Directors. I have been serving in this capacity for the past two years and gotten a lot of things done.
All the way back to 2016, getting some department funds for military eating disorders research, getting about four-and-a-half million dollars in eating disorders funding, being able to work with the Office of Women’s Health at the Department of Health and Human Services to update very antiquated literature on eating disorders, etc.
We had to dig-in and help parity come to fruition, making sure that eating disorder and physical disorder are treated on par with one another.
We were also able to get funding for health trainings and, in a big deal, able to secure $4 million to establish the United States National Center for Excellence of Eating Disorders, which is now doing remarkable research through Dr. Christine Pete and Sandy Bulik at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
It can be a long slog getting this stuff done, but we have to have strength for the journey and be in it for the long-haul in order to do what we are supposed to do on behalf of our patients and families.
JE: Incredible. Thank you for sharing your incredible journey to serving this population. I would love to hear what work is currently going on for you all.
Virtual interview with Chase Banister of the Eating Disorders Coalition conducted by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC, – Founder & President of Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope on October 28, 2020.
About the Transcriber:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published December 30, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on December 30, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC