West Virginia University Logo

Treatment for those struggling with eating disorders and prevention for those not yet affected.

History and Overview

The WVU Disordered Eating Center of Charleston (DECC) was launched in the summer of 2010 by Drs. Stephen Sondike and Jessica Luzier. DECC is an interprofessional outpatient treatment program that provides services for youth and adults with disordered eating and clinical eating disorders. Team members include psychologists, social workers, a registered dietician, and physicians. The DECC team meets weekly to discuss the progress of individuals receiving treatment and to review current research on the treatment of disordered eating. All team members have received extensive training in assessment and intervention with disordered eating patients, and utilize journal club, conferences, and continuing education opportunities to remain current in their knowledge and skills. Between meetings team members regularly collaborate to provide the most effective, evidence-based care for patients, and collectively address complex clinical issues.



As outlined above, an interprofessional team format is used to address these highly complex disorders. Most DECC patients are treated in outpatient settings. Clinical services are provided at the Department of Behavioral Medicine at CAMC Memorial Hospital. DECC psychotherapists use a variety of modalities in their treatment, including individual, group and family therapy. Therapeutic approaches include Family Based Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy-Enhanced, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Therapists work in tandem with psychiatrists, general medical practitioners, and a registered dietitian to tailor a treatment plan to each patient.

DECC does not provide any type of weight loss treatment, since this is misaligned with all evidence-based and best-practice treatment approaches for people with eating disorders. After all, intentional restrictive dieting can cause or exacerbate disordered eating behavior. DECC does not treat food addiction. DECC does not conduct evaluations or make recommendations for any weight loss surgeries.

Patients who are severely medically compromised may be hospitalized on medical floors at CAMC. In some cases, intensive treatment is needed in a specialty unit out of state. These decisions are always made collaboratively, with the patient and his/her family as pillars of the treatment team.


Awareness and prevention are major commitments for the DECC. Eating disorders remain stigmatizing and shameful. There is an imperative to increase public awareness and provide high fidelity information to counter the myths associated with these perilous medical and psychiatric conditions. One important charge of DECC is public education and awareness. Over the last decade, DECC experts have provided outreach to schools, teachers, and clinicians in training. Dr. Luzier has also presented workshops on disordered eating for local educators and clinicians to raise awareness of the frequency and urgency of this problem, to highlight signs and symptoms and assist them in making assessments and necessary referrals. Team members regularly present to local physician groups. Dr. Luzier also provides consultation to clinicians across West Virginia who may have inquiries about best practice treatment of patients with eating disorders.

In the Summer of 2013 Dr. Luzier developed the WV Eating Disorder Network. Our goal was to develop a list serv of interprofessional providers across West Virginia who are interested in treating patients with eating disorders. We routinely disseminated information on trainings in the area and gathered information from providers for potential referral sources around the state. If you are a provider, and you are interested in joining the Network, please send an email to jluzier@hsc.wvu.edu. We now have close to 200 providers of all different disciplines with an interest in working with individuals with eating disorders in our state.

Finally, Dr. Luzier chairs an educational conference for professionals in Charleston every Spring, soliciting experts from around the country to help providers in West Virginia address the needs of this important population.

Advocacy for Patients

We have a long way to go in West Virginia when it comes to improving access to best practice treatment for individuals with eating disorders. So much of our role is outside of the domain of the single patient or family we see in our clinics or schools. Dr. Luzier continues to work on advocacy efforts at the state and federal level and to disseminate information. Lawmakers continue to express discouragement to learn that there are no intensive specialized services for individuals with ED’s in our state; patients and families must travel out of state to access an IOP, PHP, or residential level of care that provides specialty care for their condition. There are economic, social, and geographic factors at play here. We need to be developing programs that all patients can access, using best practices and offering intensive treatment.

DECC experts have met and hosted both Federal and State elected leaders and local officials to highlight concerns faced by our patients and families.