Speaker bios

Keynote Speaker


Jenni Schaefer is one of the foremost motivational speakers of her generation. She has carried her message of self-acceptance and triumph over adversity to the campuses of Harvard and Yale, to corporate leaders and mental health professionals, and to audiences ranging from teens to seniors, earning an international reputation for her ability to bring just the right insights and approach to each.


Her own books, her contributions to anthologies like the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, appearances on Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Today and Entertainment Tonight, and print coverage from Cosmopolitan to The New York Times, have carried the message to millions more.


Jenni’s straightforward, accessible style as an author, speaker, consultant and coach has made her a role model, source of inspiration, and confidant to people worldwide looking to overcome adversity and flourish as human beings. Dr. Phil, citing her dedication to helping people live life to the fullest, has called her “an inspiration to all.”


“It is my passion and my calling,” says Jenni, “to share with people the tools and attitudes that can lead to the kind of life we all dream of–one of purpose and genuine happiness.” Her message is that much stronger for her ready acknowledgement that her own journey has always been a work in progress.


“I found happy and purposeful living the hard way—through experience and lots of falling down!” she says.


Jenni’s background enables her to bridge the personal and the clinical in dealing with a range of issues, including addiction and perfectionism, eating and body image, self-esteem and personal empowerment. She graduated summa cum laude from Texas A&M University with a degree in biochemistry and was headed to medical school when she decided instead to move to Nashville to pursue singing and songwriting, then dealt with the devastating consequences of an eating disorder that nearly derailed everything.


The chronicle of her journey back, Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too (McGraw-Hill), became a breakthrough best seller, establishing her as a leading light in the recovery movement. Its continued impact can be measured in the fact that it was recently re-released in a tenth-anniversary edition and audiobook, and that it has been released in China, Korea, and Japan, where she has carried her message and where her song, “Life Without Ed,” has been released in a Japanese-pop version. Her next book, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life (McGraw-Hill), widened her message to one of self-actualization and personal fulfillment.


In her latest, she teamed with Harvard Medical School clinical psychologist Jennifer J. Thomas to address the millions of people who struggle with disordered eating while not meeting the diagnostic criteria for a full-blown eating disorder. With Almost Anorexic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Relationship with Food a Problem? (Harvard Health Publications/Hazelden), the two bridge the gaps between cutting-edge research, clinical knowledge and personal experience to provide both insight and hope.


Platinum Sponsor Timberline Knolls


As Director of Clinical Operations of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, Melissa provides leadership and management of the clinical system to ensure the highest quality of residential services. Additionally, she facilitates many of the groups and provides individual therapy. Early in her career, Melissa spent time in residential care, working with children with significant trauma histories. She then ran a substance abuse intensive outpatient program (IOP) followed by several years in private practice. She also managed a program offering IOP and partial hospitalization for eating disorders and mood disorders. At Timberline, she started as a primary therapist, followed by serving as a clinical lead and director of program development.  Melissa received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. She earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois. Melissa is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.

Gold Sponsor McCallum Place


Travis has worked in field of eating disorders since 2003 in both clinical and marketing
roles, beginning as a therapist with adults and adolescents in residential care. He is a regular contributor to websites, podcasts, webinars and conferences on eating and body image issues and has spoken at schools such as Pepperdine University, Baylor University, Washington University, and graduate schools around the country. In 2008 he began Hungry for Hope, a faith- based conference on eating and body image issues that is now hosted by FINDINGbalance. Travis graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1991 with a degree in advertising and immediately began working with the international ministry of The Navigators, mentoring students. After eight years, his desire to better understand how people change and heal led to obtaining a Master of Arts in Counseling (2001) and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2003) from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Before taking on his current role as Director of Business Development & Marketing he worked as a primary therapist at McCallum Place.

Silver Sponsor Center for Discovery

PRESENTER: Deandra Christianson, LCPC, COWF, CCMHC

Deandra Christianson received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee, and then continued on to receive her Master's degree in Clinical Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. While in her Master’s program she earned a Counseling Specialization and focused on treatment of children and adolescents. She is currently completing her PhD in Organizational Leadership at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Deandra has been with Center for Discovery in many capacities, both clinical and administrative, since 2013. Currently, she serves as the Assistant Director of Operations in the Eating Disorder Residential Treatment Division. Deandra is passionate about her work, as well as, eating disorder awareness, advocacy, and treatment. As a leader and clinician, Deandra is informed by the research and work of Dr. Brené Brown, and she is a Certified Daring Way Facilitator(TM). Furthermore, she is informed by strengths based approaches in combination with Transformational Leadership. 

Silver Sponsor Insight/ERC

PRESENTER: Jennifer McAdams, MA, LCPC

Jennifer McAdams, MA, LCPC is a Clinical Site Manager at Eating Recovery Centers-Insight in Northbrook, Illinois.  Jennifer earned a Master’s degree in Clinical Professional Psychology from Roosevelt University and is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.  Jennifer’s primary treatment modality focus has been on Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Exposure Response Prevention, and Family Based Therapy.  Jennifer was a treating clinician in the FBT-DBT study with Insight and Daniel Le Grange.  Jennifer specialized in work with families in higher levels of care and individuals from adolescence through adulthood.

Bronze Sponsor Selah 

PRESENTER: Ashley Hemrich, MA

Ashley is the Regional Director of Clinical Partnership for Selah House, a Christ-Centered, Clinically Excellent, Eating Disorder Treatment Center, located in central Indiana. Ashley travels both regionally and nationally to help connect clients in suffering to beneficial treatment options. She has extensive expertise in intake and admissions operations, utilization review and continuing care coordination, business relations, and evidence-based therapeutic modalities, specifically with eating disorders, OCD, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and personality disorders. Ashley received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Arts in Clinical-Adult Psychology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Ultimately, Ashley values the opportunity of being the first point of contact for all clients, their loved ones, and outpatient treatment providers, as well as ensuring that all parties involved receive quality care during and after the referral process.

Bronze Sponsor Rogers Behavioral Health with EDCI


Marcy is a Licensed Independent Social Worker who has volunteered with EDCI for several years, joining the board in November 2015, as an advocate and voice for everyone impacted by an eating disorder.  Marcy brings the perspective of a clinician and an individual in recovery from an eating disorder. Marcy believes that an emphasis on body acceptance and emotional health, along with early intervention, increasing access and insurance coverage for treatment, and education of doctors, coaches, educators, and the general public are necessary steps to preventing eating disorders. Marcy has a private practice in West Des Moines, Iowa, where she works with children, families, and adults to overcome a variety of mental health challenges.  Marcy is a Registered Yoga Teacher, 200 hour, and has completed training focused on Trauma Sensitive Yoga. Marcy incorporates yoga, breath and movement when appropriate and beneficial into the treatment process.

Bronze Sponsor The Emily Program

PRESENTER: Hilmar Wagner, MPH, RDN, CD

Hilmar Wagner is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) and Certified Dietitian (CD) in the state of Washington. Hilmar joined the Emily Program in 2006, and currently serves as theTraining Coordinator for Nutrition Services and Clinical Outreach Specialist. In this role he initiates and coordinates training of new dietetic staff, dietetic interns and continuing education for nutrition services for all Emily Program locations. He has presented on a wide range of nutrition topics at local, regional and national conferences. Hilmar received his Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition/Dietetics and Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Minnesota. He has worked in the field of eating disorders for the past 12 years. Hilmar has extensive experience working with clients of all eating disorder diagnoses in both individual and group settings. He has a particular interest in mindfulness and body-centered approaches to eating disorder recovery.

Bronze Sponsor Aloria

Dr. Robyn Welk-Richards, PhD, MSW, LCSW, CEDS

Dr. Robyn Welk-Richards is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist.  For over a decade she has worked on a national scale to masterfully care for both adults and adolescents struggling with eating disorders and other severe mental health problems. Dr. Welk-Richards brings a unique perspective to Aloria Milwaukee, but more importantly, her desire to see people become their best version of themselves is what makes her such an asset.

Amanda Pelzek, MS, LPC, NCC

Amanda Pelzek is a Lead Clinician at AloriaHealth with a focus in working with the adult population. Amanda is a Licensed Professional counselor and National Board Certified Counselor and has earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Mount Mary University. Amanda has worked in all settings including inpatient, partial hospitalization and residential care as well as in crisis management. Amanda specializes in eating disorder treatment as well as suicide assessment and is certified as a Trauma Counselor. She is passionate about the supportive and empowering approach of Aloria Health.

Laura Housel, Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist

Laura Housel works as a Recreation Therapy Specialist at Aloria and is a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist, Certified Yoga Instructor and currently obtaining her Master of Science in Art Therapy with concentration in Counseling at Mount Mary University.  She has over twelve years of experience in the recreation therapy field and remains passionate about using her creativity to help others have a greater quality of life on an individual, group, and community level. She is active in her professional and personal development serving on several boards including the Iowa Therapeutic Recreation Association, Directors of Volunteers in Agencies, Ankeny Jaycees, Ankeny Young Professionals, and Wisconsin Art Therapy Association and has planned and presented at several conferences and workshops.  Laura has experience and training in mind/body work, yoga, meditation and art making and is interested in trauma, neuroscience, mind/body connection, and social justice.

Local Hero Sponsor Clarahan Consulting


Sue Clarahan RD, LD, CEDRD blends her passion for nutrition with practical and sensible approaches to
eating. She has been in the field of dietetics for over 35 years and for the past 10 years has been the
owner of Clarahan Consulting LLC. Clarahan Consulting LLC specializes in treating clients with eating
disorders and disorder eating. In 2014, Sue became the first CEDRD (Certified Eating Disorder Dietitian)
in the state of Iowa. She is a Health At Every Size ® practitioner and believes that all bodies deserve
compassionate and ethical care. She is involved in decreasing the weight stigma that has saturated the
culture and harms people. In 2007 she received the Iowa Recognized Dietitian of the Year and in 2016,
she received the Founders Volunteer of the Year EDCIowa. She is a member of the Academy of Eating
Disorders, the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, the Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa, the International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians, the Association of Size Diversity and
Health, and the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

Local Hero Sponsor McFarland Mental Health Consulting

PRESENTER: Brandis McFarland MA, LMHC

Brandis McFarland is a Masters Level, Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has worked in private practice for 14 years treating Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorders. Ms. McFarland graduated from Luther College in 1999 with degrees in Biology and Psychology. She received her Masters degree from the University of Iowa in Psychiatric Rehabilitation Counseling in 2002. Ms. McFarland is passionate about working within the community to provide Eating Disorder and Body Image awareness and prevention programs for schools, colleges and professionals.  She has been actively doing this since 2002. She works with the Health Transition Clinic through PCI to provide group education about the mental health conditions associated with binge eating. Ms. McFarland is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorders, and has served as a volunteer for the Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa. Other professional memberships and experience include working as an Adjunct Professor at Mt. Mercy University in serving on the advisory board for Mt. Mercy College for graduate programs in Marriage and Family Counseling, and working as a member of the Unity Point Family and Patient Advisory Board.

Local Hero Sponsor UnityPoint Health Nutrition Centres 


Holly Paulsen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jones Regional Medical Center Diabetes Education Program in Anamosa, Ia.  She is also a Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian providing outpatient medical nutrition therapy to patients with eating disorders. As a Certified Intuitive Eating counselor  she is passionate about helping patients normalize their eating patterns using a non-diet, weight neutral approach. Holly is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, American Academy of Diabetes Educators and The International Federations of Eating Disorder Dietitians.

UnityPoint Health - Robert Young Center & Amy’s Gift

PRESENTERS: Amy's Gift Support Group Facilitators
Kimberly Laird

Kimberly is one of the facilitators of the Quad Cities Eating Disorder Support Group. She first attended the group in June 2016 looking for support for herself and her daughter, who was battling her eating disorder. With the support of this group, her pediatrician and therapist, her daughter was able to get into recovery using the Maudsley method and has been in recovery since December 2016. Although not a trained therapist, Kimberley has done extensive research and has a great deal of empathy for people who have eating disorders and those who support them."Our group is unique in that we try to foster bonds and friendships outside of the traditional meeting day and time. We reach out to each other when we are struggling, we help each other shop for food or how to navigate eating out at a restaurant. I am very grateful to have found this group and very proud of everyone associated with it."

Juliana Rounds

Juliana is a 16 yr old high school student who helps facilitate the support group with her mother. She initially went to the support group at the pleading of her mother when she was not yet ready to admit that she had an eating disorder. After several months, and with the help of her mother and therapist, Juliana was able to get into recovery and has been in recovery since December 2016. "I continue to attend the group weekly with my mother, along with facilitating. I find it helpful to continue with the group as it helps when I am struggling and needing support or when I am able to offer support to others."

Lindsay Madson

Lindsay has been a resident of Moline for the last 35 years.  She has been recovered from her eating disorder for the last 14 years. The turning point for her happened after going to an outpatient treatment facility at the age of 21. She has helped lead the Quad Cities Eating Disorder Support Group for the past 7 years. Lindsay finds deep personal value in helping keep the heads and hearts up for others struggling through similar issues as she did. She believes that by finding and spreading our light, we are able to be healed inside-out and find the joy that we so much deserve.

© 2023 by Networking Talks.  Proudly created with Wix.com