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Voices of Veritas: Collaborating with Leaders and Changing the Field of Eating Disorders for the Better

The thought leaders and subject matter experts at Veritas Collaborative play a key role in driving the conversation about eating disorders forward. Our 2020 Voices of Veritas series represents their commitment to furthering our vision of a world where all persons with eating disorders and their families can access best-practice care and be inspired to take positive action towards recovery.

Veritas Collaborative is a known leader in the field of eating disorders because we provide best-practice care to individuals with eating disorders and their families. This month, we’re spotlighting Elisha Contner Wilkins, MS, LMFT, CEDS-S, Executive Director of Veritas Collaborative’s Child, Adolescent & Adult Center in Richmond, Virginia. Elisha has over 20 years of clinical experience and has spent the past 15 years leading patients and families on the path to recovery and supporting other professionals in the field through collaboration and training.

Well known for her passionate spirit, Elisha is diligent about driving our mission of increasing access to care, collaborating with the next generation of leaders, and going above and beyond to change the field of eating disorders for the better through her ongoing advocacy efforts.

Answering the call to increase access to life-saving care for eating disorders.

Veritas Collaborative is passionate about innovating to improve outcomes and meet the needs of people with eating disorders—and we attract some of the best minds in the field. Our treatment programs have been shown to increase the likelihood of successful recovery from eating disorders because we take a medically sound, evidence-based approach and because we value the experience and insight of the industry leaders on our team. The spirit of collaboration can be felt throughout our organization, but it is most evident in the development of our center in Richmond—and Elisha was instrumental in making it happen.

Elisha developed an interest in treating eating disorders as an undergraduate and spent the following two decades chasing professional experiences in pursuit of that passion. After graduate school, she found herself working primarily in foster care and outpatient community mental health, but Elisha continued to immerse herself in the field of eating disorders. Whenever a child or adolescent presented symptoms of an eating disorder, Elisha was the provider to call. Eventually, she transitioned into private practice in order to focus on helping people struggling with eating disorders. As her career experience grew, so did the opportunities to take on leadership roles, including growing into the role of program manager at an inpatient treatment facility.

After moving to Richmond, she identified a gap in available services and resources for people with eating disorders in need of a higher level of care. These individuals had virtually no local options and, unfortunately, required referrals to out-of-state facilities to get the care they needed. That’s when Elisha stepped up and did what leaders do—she used her professional experience and connections to create meaningful change for people in need.

“I first met Veritas’ Co-Founders at a national eating disorders conference. We were with different facilities at the time, but I felt an immediate connection with them because we share an infectious passion for this work,” said Elisha. “They were among the first people I talked to about the real need for an intermediate level of care in Richmond, and eventually, they sought me out to lead the establishment of a new center. I am exceptionally proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together.”

Together, along with the help of the entire Veritas team, they worked to bring Veritas’ treatment model and its levels of care to the Richmond community—and they were just getting started.

Practicing the skills we teach and adapting to changing circumstances.

Leadership calls for flexibility—it’s a skill we teach our patients, and it’s a quality we’ve come to expect from our leadership team. When an unprecedented public health crisis created major barriers to delivering the services our patients need, we quickly implemented Telehealth services to ensure continuity of care—and Elisha played a key role in overseeing the transition.

“It’s important that Veritas Collaborative, as an organization, is flexible and able to adapt to unexpected circumstances,” said Elisha. “It shows that we value the life skills we teach our patients—and that we care enough to practice them ourselves.”

Flexibility training is an important component of our treatment program. Individuals who come to our centers gain valuable education in how to adapt to changing or challenging situations in order to better navigate recovery after they finish inpatient treatment. They also gain access to ongoing support through Alumni Services to further aid in long-term recovery.

“Ultimately, long-term recovery requires people to negotiate a changing set of choices every single day,” said Elisha. “Flexibility training is about empowering people to make choices that align with recovery.”

Collaborating with the next generations of leaders in the field.

Our forward-looking approach to changing the world of eating disorders treatment inspires us to look within our teams to identify up-and-coming leaders in the field. Similarly, Elisha credits her introduction to the world of eating disorders treatment to a mentor she had during her years as an undergraduate. That connection empowered her to start an on-campus support group for students coping with eating disorders and get involved in student-patient counseling sessions—foundational experiences in a decades-long career of service to the eating disorders community.

As an Executive Director, Elisha relishes the opportunity to help others grow into industry leaders and finds great value in mentoring her team. By mentoring others and working to ensure people have access to life-saving care, Elisha is actively contributing to the ongoing growth and improvement of the eating disorder field.

“When I attended my first eating disorders conference in the nineties, there were few participants and exhibitors,” she said. “The field has grown tremendously since then—and Veritas has played a great role in leading that charge.”

Elisha also finds a sense of pride and purpose in the opportunities for advocacy that the position affords her. Participating in grassroots efforts gives her a chance to use her voice to raise awareness of the unique issues facing people with eating disorders and champion increased access to care.

“We’re doing more than treating eating disorders,” she continued. “We’re nurturing leaders, advocating for the eating disorder community, and changing the world for the better.”

Together, we are stronger. Reach out to find out how Veritas Collaborative can help you or a loved one discover the resilience needed to overcome an eating disorder.