The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders says more than 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the United States.
Health experts say often times, eating disorders can go unnoticed especially in rural areas where problems stem from a lack of resources.
Therapist Crystal Kirschman, the owner of Emily Wish LLC, has worked with eating disorders around the country, specializing in each step to recovery in patient care.
She says eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating present similar symptoms in patients who live both rural and urban lifestyles.
“Whether I’m in Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, wherever I’m at, there’s definitely a parallel between them all,” she said.
Kirschman never intended to open up her own clinic in Great Falls, but realized the need for Emily Wish after finding a lack of options to treats eating disorders in the area.
“When I moved here, I couldn't find an agency that specialized in them, so it was kind of to the point where if I wanted to continue doing it, I just had to create it,” she said.
She says Emily Wish was born in memory of a family member who lost her battle to an eating disorder.
"I always think and kind of laugh that she wouldn't want this to be about her, so the name is 'Emily Wish', not 'Emily's Wish', because she would not like that," Kirschman said. "But just in the sense that we can make our own Emily Wish and go towards a place of recovery and have a place of hope."
Since opening more than one year ago, the clinic has seen an overwhelming response from patients not just from Great Falls but the surrounding communities.
“I have some people from Shelby, Conrad, we’ve had people from Cut Bank before, so people definitely travel,” said Kirschman.
From Helena to The Hi-Line, the patients also range in sex and age.
“My youngest is 4 and all the way up to 70,” she said.
The clinic partners with the Great Falls Eating Disorder Task Force in their outpatient services.
"Bozeman has an intensive outpatient program and then we have our intensive outpatient program here at Emily Wish- that's the highest level of care for eating disorders that you can get in Montana," said Emily Wish therapist and Great Falls Eating Disorder Task Force Member Christina Skinner.
Kirschman says the Task Force is another resource that helps patients on their journey to recovery.
“There are a team of dedicated professionals around here that just want to learn more and have that knowledge and education, awareness, and we range from dietitians, therapists, I know there’s been medical doctors in the past, we have a dental hygienist in there so it’s just everybody that’s really just concerned and wants to do the best to help others- it’s a great thing to see,” she said.
While Kirschman says her future in Great Falls is temporary, she’s established a team of therapists who will continue her mission to carry hope for those struggling with eating disorders.
“Once I found out how great the need was, I started building up so when I’m gone this still exists and the access to care is still here,” said Kirschman.
Address: 600 Central Ave | Suite 201 | Great Falls
Phone: (406) 952-3772
Business Hours: Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm