Getting to Know Nicole Santamorena – TLC Millennial Task Force Member

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Twenty-year-old Nicole Santamorena is a veteran TLC Conference attendee and a member of TLC’s Millennial Task Force. Her vibrant spirit and kind heart are two of our favorite parts of the conference each year! TLC Member Jackie McNamara recently chatted with Nicole about her conference experiences and her favorite parts of the event  – keep reading below!

IMG_1358When was your first TLC Conference and how did you come to attend it?
I was diagnosed with trich when I was nine years old. I had been pulling since I was eight. I was bullied and felt very isolated until my parents found TLC and took me to my first conference in 2005. At 10 years old, it changed my life. After that first conference, I started educating my classmates about trich; I would tell anyone who wanted to know. I stopped being ashamed of my trich and skin picking. This will be my tenth conference and I couldn’t be more excited to attend!

What’s your favorite memory from past events?
My favorite memory would have to be when my dad finally understood my trich. He had come with me to prior conferences, but hadn’t attended any workshops. It was 2011 in San Francisco when my dad finally attended some workshops. After the weekend was over and we were on our way home, he told me: “Nicole, I finally get it. You can’t help it, sweetie, and I’m sorry I told you to just stop.” It was one of the best moments! So was meeting all of the incredible people and making lifelong friendships.

What are you most looking forward to at the 2015 TLC Conference?
I can’t wait to meet all the newcomers! I can’t wait to hear their stories and to try to help them in their journeys with BFRBs.

Tell us a little bit about the workshop you will be presenting this year and what you hope people will take away from attending it.
My workshop is about coming to terms with BFRBs as a teen or young adult. It is about learning to love yourself in a world that has harsh beauty standards and is quick to judge. In attending school for fashion design my freshman and part of my sophomore year in college, I realized that I wasn’t cut out for the harshness in the industry; I can’t be intentionally mean. (I ended up switching my major to costume design.)

My workshop is about creativity and self discovery, finding what you love and learning to implement it in your journey with BFRBs. I hope people come away from the workshop with: (1) tools other than physical strategies to be the best person they can be; (2) knowledge that there are people just like them who are looking for guidance and acceptance; and (3) the ability to see how special and loved they are–and believing they are worth the love they receive.

What advice do you have for first-time conference attendees?
My advice is this: I know how overwhelming it can be when you first walk into the conference. There will be hundreds of people just like you. Embrace them as family. This community, TLC, is a giant family of people across the globe. Make friends, enjoy yourself. This is a time for healing, discovery, and growth. Learn as much as you can; you won’t regret it.

Thanks, Nicole!!

Getting to Know: Merrill Black, LCSW, BFRB Treatment Provider

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Merrill Black is a licensed clinical social worker and founder of The Temperance Center in Eastchester, NY. Merrill has shared her nurturing, holistic approach at TLC events for over 24 years and is a cherished friend of the community. TLC Member Jackie McNamara, recently chatted with Merrill about her approach to treating BFRBs*,  her favorite things about the TLC Annual Conference, and some tips for first-time attendees. Jackie shares their conversation with us, below.

merrillHow many annual conferences have you attended and what is your favorite memory from past events?

I have attended the TLC conference every year since 2001. Rather than a specific memory, the nice part for me is reconnecting each year with former colleagues like Charlie Mansueto, who trained me in treating trich, and catching up with everyone I don’t get to see on a daily basis.

What do you think have been some of the most significant clinical advances in BFRB treatment since you started treating BFRBs?

I began treating individuals with BFRBs in 1997. One of the biggest advancements has been understanding the assessment process—using ComB & SCAMP models—to determine how to approach an individual’s treatment. We now have a better understanding of the disorders, what it is like for the person, how much of the behavior is sensory, emotional, habitual. One of the greatest shifts has been to approach BFRB treatment from a holistic, mind-body-spirit perspective. I incorporate CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) with techniques like meditation, hypnosis, relaxation, etc.

Another big change has been a greater understanding of the inner workings of skin picking—and BFRBs overall—and the different ways in which people deal with them. For example, there is a body-image component to picking, which differs from pulling.

Tell us about the workshops you will be presenting at this year’s conference and what you hope attendees will take away from them.

Sweet Dreams” is for kids 12 and under with Sherrie Vavricheck. Nighttime can be a really difficult time in terms of pulling or picking. We will explore strategies around the ComB model and incorporating relaxation. “Mindful Movement and Meditation” is for teens and young adults and will address breaths, movement, relaxation, and meditation to manage BFRBs. “Guided Meditation for Your Daily Life” is about how meditation can be really helpful to give a break/pause for managing on daily basis.

The workshops should be really fun. I would like attendees to learn to be gentle with themselves and have more options and tools to expand their repertoire, things they haven’t thought of to manage their BFRBs.

What advice do you have for first-time conference attendees?

Take it slow. It’s okay not to go to every single workshop. Be sure to take some time for yourselves. Most of all, come to the conference with an open heart.

Merrill Black, LCSW, is a cognitive behavior therapist and founder of The Temperance Center in Eastchester, NY.  Merrill has been treating a diverse population of children, teens, and adults since 1987. Among her specialties are Anxiety Disorders, such as Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Phobias and Fears, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Trichotillomania. Click here to contact Merrill.

*BFRBs, or Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, include Trichotillomania, Skin Picking (Excoriation) Disorder, Onychophagia, and other similar behaviors.

Skin Picking Disorder featured on The Doctors – Friday March 6!

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11045383_10152781777402695_7580307298532758720_n (1)Great News! This Friday, millions of daytime television viewers will get information about dermatillomania (also known as Skin Picking Disorder).

Dermatillomania author and advocate Angela Hartlin will appear on the Emmy award television show, “The Doctors,”  Friday, March 6th, 2015.

Angela will discuss her experience with skin picking disorder while treatment expert and TLC Professional Member, Karen Pickett, MFT shares

important clinical information. Don’t miss out on this special episode that may have some surprises as well!

Please check your local programming to see what time it airs in your area. Or follow Angela’s Event Page for show updates, the link to watch the program after it airs, and to share your comments and reactions! (It airs on CBS/ NBC at 2pm EST, 11am PST.)

Thank you, Angela for continuing to speak out about dermatillomania and BFRBs!



REVIEW – Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop — Or, How Annette Pasternak May Have Blown My Mind

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Guest Post by Lizabeth Wesely-Casella of 

pasternak bookSkin picking and hair pulling aren’t high on many people’s conversational radar, though they are a major concern to nearly 1 in every 25 people.  What you don’t know, or don’t talk about, regarding body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) has been put into easily digestible, non-threatening bits in the latest book from Annette Pasternak, Ph.D., Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop (now available through TLC!).

In our fast paced world, if you are reading beyond that first paragraph, I’d like to take you on a brief journey and tell you why this book is so darn good.  C’mon, let’s chat!

For those of us who live with body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), whether it’s hair pulling like me or skin picking like Annette, there’s a certain “expertise” you have in understanding obsessive behaviors.  Add to that the possibility that you work almost exclusively in the mental health community where you are steeped in commentary about self-care and self compassion and the phrase “Yeah, I got this.” is your mantra when overwhelming amounts of advice heap on you daily.   For those of us in either (or both) situation, its quite literally stunning to run across a book that organizes information in a way that makes it bite sized and easy to act on during your daily life.

Annette did it.  Just take a look….

The insights Annette shares are solid, time-tested concepts, but the way in which she offers the information and suggestions is actually helpful.  The book is not a big lump of information but rather well laid out insights: how to use the book; why we pick and how to stop; strategies for addressing the behavior; examining your thoughts; examining your diet; multiple relaxation techniques; the role of hormones and how to find both balance and motivation to set yourself up for continued success.

As a hair puller, I know that when I’m in the moment I think of many of the concepts Annette addresses in the book and would love to know more about how they impact what is happening to me, but when the episode is behind me I often lose focus on how to monitor or log or chart the various ways that I feel when I increase exercise or reduce stress or avoid excessive aromatics in my cooking.  Annette’s gentle guidance and clarity of writing encourage me to set up the tools and take the steps necessary to understand more about my baseline health and well being BEFORE I encounter my triggers and in advance of my pulling episodes.  This book makes self monitoring easier and provides guidance as I look for ways to feel in control or better said, in harmony.

So the bottom line is that, Annette’s gentle and persuasive writing is powerful enough to take the “Yeah, I got this” mindset and nudge it toward curiosity; an openness to try new strategies and learn more about what’s going on in the self.  For people like me, who have about a thousand things on their plate and who often think we have all the tools, it’s worth it to take a deep dive into Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop and embrace the possibility that there are kinder, gentler and more organized ways to address our needs and cope better.

I can recommend this book wholeheartedly to hair pullers and skin pickers alike.  If you deal with BFRBs, read this book.  It will help you and you will be glad you did.

Thank you Annette!


Lizabeth Wesely-Casella is a weight stigma prevention and binge eating disorder advocate who also supports awareness for body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). She works in Washington, DC as a coalition builder and a speaker discussing eating disorders, trichotillomania and civil rights.

Lizabeth has spoken in the Senate, at the Capitol, on film and in radio. Her advocacy work has impacted program and policy design from college campuses to the White House and recently her efforts have included providing guidance on programs including Let’s Move!.

Lizabeth lives in Washington DC with her loving husband and delightfully spoiled dog Noodle. Please visit her website at or follow her on Facebook at Lizabeth Wesely-Casella or on Twitter @BingeBehavior.

The author of Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop,  Annette Pasternak, Phd is a certified holistic health coach specializing in skin picking.Annette is her own success story, and is dedicated to helping others find recovery from skin picking, hair pulling, and other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs).

We’re so inspired by Mackensie! You should be too.

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You can help make sure TLC is there for for all the kids, teens and adults affected by BFRBs. Click below to make a donation of $20 or more today* and we’ll send you a special spinner ring as a symbol of the infinite impact your gift provides.

When 16-year-old Mackensie started pulling her eyebrows in 5th grade, her family
found the reliable information, treatment referrals, and the supportive
community created by you through TLC.

And that was the beginning of Mackensie’s  journey —
which today has led to her becoming an unstoppable force for BFRB Awareness. 

Check out her story at:
J-14 magazine 

Mackensie has spoken about trich to her classmates, helped organize a TLC workshop in her hometown and a fundraiser with her youth group. She writes for the TLC blog, and always makes herself available for  any “behind-the-scenes” tasks that staff might need help with. At the upcoming TLC Conference – her fifth! – Mackensie will give the Friday night welcome address.  She’ll share news about how she and the other members of the TLC Millennial Task Force are going to make sure teens and young adults across the globe have access to the TLC resources and community that have been so life-changing for them.

Will you join Mackensie in bringing TLC to all the kids, teens and adults affected by BFRBs?

From the moment you click donate, your support goes right to work – and it doesn’t stop. In fact,by empowering young people like Mackensie, your act of generosity keeps growing, creating a ripple-effect of relief, education and recovery.

*As a special thank you for your support this Valentine month, we’ll send some love right back to you.  Make a gift of $20 or more by February 28th and TLC will send you a Heart Spinner Ring (or our popular silver spinner ring, your choice!).

If Mackensie has touched your heart like she has ours – please show your support by making a donation today – you’ll be ensuring that TLC is there for all the kids, teens and adults affected by BFRBs.

With love and gratitude,

Jennifer Raikes
Executive Director

“I’ve found a lot of strength in coming out and talking about (trich)

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“I’ve found a lot of strength in coming out and talking about (trich),” she says. “People live in so much shame. I like being able to help let them know they’re not alone.”

We’re so inspired by Mackensie!
At 16, she is blazing ‪#‎BFRBawareness‬ trails by sharing her ‪#‎trich‬ story in J-14 Magazine, on, and now on…/when-pulling-out-your-hair-i…/

Much love to  @Cosmopolitan for doubling up on ‪#‎BFRB‬ awareness this month!

Pick up the February issue of J-14 to read more of Mackensie’s story

Get the BFRBs Stories Collection!

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In this exclusive deal, TLC has teamed up with authors Sandy Rosenblatt, Laura Barton, and Angela Hartlin to deliver to you 27 stories from people who know what it’s like to have a BFRB. The inspiring stories in these biographical memoirs from all over the world will move you as you learn how 27 diverse individuals process living day-to-day with their conditions and learn what prompted them to bravely come forward to tell the world about their struggles.

TLC advocates for more people to be a part of the collective voices in the community that refuses to be silenced by BFRBs. From now until Jan. 27th, 2015, you can have all 3 books for $50 plus get a free awareness bracelet for a total savings of 20%! Use the code “BFRBstories” to take advantage of this rare time-limited offer and look into the minds of many others who share the struggles that accompany having a BFRB.

To learn more about the authors and their books, “like” them on Facebook:
Doesn’t it Hurt? | Project Dermatillomania | Angela Hartlin

If you’ve already read these books, please leave reviews on Amazon:
Doesn’t it Hurt? | Project Dermatillomania | FOREVER MARKED

Interested in reading in the future? Click “to-read” on Goodreads:
Doesn’t it Hurt? | Project Dermatillomania | FOREVER MARKED
(or leave a review if already read!)

You don’t need to be published to tell us about your life with a BFRB. If you would like to come forward and tell TLC your story of living, fill out this form and you can be added to the list of supporters who have been inspired to share their journey with others who suffer from these conditions the world.