Tera Lensegrav-Benson’s Avalon Story
Reviewing my Avalon story is starting to feel a little like time travel. In 2003 right after the program opened, I was a doctoral student training with Benita. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with clients with eating disorders in a more structured setting. Up until Avalon opened my eating disorder treatment experience was very limited, all in outpatient settings where I felt restricted capacity to facilitate change. During my graduate work, I was drawn to learn more about eating disorders based on an experience in my early adolescence with a friend who had anorexia. She made me promise not to tell her parents she was purging. It was a promise I honored at the time, but have regretted ever since. It was so confusing to me at the time and I was determined to learn more about eating disorders.
In my time as a student at Avalon, what struck me was the commitment to the mission, genuine belief that people can become recoverED, and the atmosphere of collegiality with the treatment team. Fast forward, I have been back at Avalon since 2006. I was a primary therapist for 55 clients over 5 years before moving into more administrative roles. Many of these bright stars still update me on their lives and seem to know just when to pop up on my radar, reminding me that long term recovery is not only possible, it is something that all people who feel chained by their obsessions and fears deserve.
Avalon has challenged and stretched me in so many ways, although there have been hard moments, I am always grateful in hindsight. I thrive on the intensity of residential care and truly feel passionate about our ability to heal patients that so many others have given up on. What keeps me excited is consistently being creative with patient interventions, I appreciate being able to collaborate with such a talented treatment team. We are only limited by our own imaginations in terms of our ability to treat to outcome for our patients. If it is ethical and we think it might help a patient make a shift, we will try it and learn from the results. I also feel grateful on a daily basis to be able to help our team members grow into their own unique potential.
Finally, let's talk about the constant learning/innovation. It has been a wild ride at times! Yet, I love the that we are always growing. We get to learn from and work with the best in the field (Norman, Dan, and Ed). I am without words when I think of the magnitude of all of these people working with a little program in UT. I know there is a great quote about those who are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who can (Steve Jobs). Special recognition to Benita for being willing to be bold to do absolutely anything to help us not only survive in such a harsh business climate but to find the other side with improved knowledge and care for the field of mental health. If I were in my proverbial time machine and others were telling me where Avalon Hills is at in this moment as well as where we were going 13 years ago-I wouldn't have believed them! We stand apart from the rest not by accident, but by pure dedication and effort.
My heart is full to be a part of a team that feels more like family with the commitment to Treat to Outcome for our very critical patients every single day.
Tera Lensegrav-Benson, PhD
Avalon Hills Eating Disorder Programs