Growing up, I found myself endlessly curious about people. As an only child, I spent much of my time at the adult table listening and observing. I reveled in the stories that everyone had to tell. I was hungry to understand these histories and connect with others on a deeper level. I also knew that I wanted to help people in a meaningful way.
In college, I struggled to declare a major, vacillating between education, psychology, and law. I decided to spend time soul searching while declaring a major that I felt I could always fall back on – business management.
Meanwhile, I struggled, like most, with the transition of being away from home and figuring out who I was as I entered adulthood. Like so many, I fell prey to diet culture and grappled with body image challenges and a fear of rejection from my newly-found friends.
Thankfully, I found someone who understood my struggles and fears and over the years helped bring me to a space of acceptance-- acceptance not only for my body, but for who I was as a person. By doing so, I was able to fully engage in my life again and not be afraid to be my authentic self or take up space. It was incredibly freeing! I knew then that my passion lay in helping others accept themselves and live a life that was meaningful to them.
I entered graduate school focusing in social work. After receiving my Masters, I made what I still cannot decide is either the bravest or most naïve decision of my life, and I left the only state I had ever lived in to move to a place where I knew no one and had never even visited. It ended up being the best decision I had ever made. It ultimately allowed me to follow my passion and help those struggling with eating disorders, body image challenges and self acceptance.
Over the years, I have learned the importance of connecting with my values and using them as guiding principles during challenging times. Throughout my career, I have enjoyed helping others learn and connect with their own values. I’ve also learned the importance of sitting with challenging thoughts and emotions, even if our minds are yelling at us to avoid them. It is not easy work, but so important in order to live a fulfilling and meaningful life, as this type of life comes with a wide range of emotions.
I am excited to learn your story, because every story is different and there is power in understanding. There is power in learning why we do the things we do, and with this power we can make room for change. I am always so honored to be a part of peoples’ journeys and to walk beside them holding hope and compassion even in the toughest of times. I believe that growth, change and full recovery is possible, and each and every one of us deserves it.
Michelle Piven is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Supervisor. Prior to joining the Galia Collaborative team, Michelle oversaw the care of patients at Eating Recovery Center. There she gained extensive experience treating eating, mood and anxiety disorders in both adolescents and adults, as well as supporting the management of virtual outpatient services.
Michelle earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University and completed internships working with adolescents experiencing substance use disorders, as well as individuals struggling with body image and low self-esteem. During this time, Michelle also successfully lobbied for the passing of Virginia House Bill 1406 which mandates eating disorder screenings in students in grades five through 12.
Michelle is committed to individualized and evidence-based approaches. She uses a variety of therapies to help individuals move towards recovery, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), with a focus on identifying one’s values in order to assist them in living a vital and meaningful life.
- Full recovery is possible
- Everyone deserves to take up space
- Connecting with our values is imperative to helping us change and grow
- There are no good and bad emotions; all emotions have a purpose
- Vulnerability can be terrifying and is imperative for human connection
- Your worth is not dependent on your size or appearance
- Travel is good for the soul
- Everyone has a story to tell
- There are no good or bad foods
- Life - and recovery - is about progress, not perfection
- Everyone is born as an intuitive eater until diet culture robs us of this gift, but we can learn to reconnect with our bodies in this way
- Coffee and chocolate are sometimes necessary to conquer the day
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