What is your role at Integrated Care Clinic?
Hi! I’m Dr. Samantha Winton and I am a licensed clinical psychologist and certified eating disorder specialist. I provide individual and family therapy, as well as co-lead the RO-DBT class with Dr. Mann at Integrated Care Clinic.
I am also the clinical director and owner of Integrated Care Clinic. I provide supervision to postdoctoral fellows, lead trainings, seminars, and case consultation groups as well as manage the day-to-day operations of Integrated Care Clinic. I guess you could say that I wear a lot of hats 🙂
Let’s break the ice: if you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This one is simple for me…ice cream. Pretty much any flavor except those with nuts or cherries.
Where did you go to school for undergrad? What did you study?
I went to school at The University of Central Florida and studied psychology. UCF felt like a great match for me as their psychology department had recently been updated with state-of-the-art labs and clinical workspaces. It was also far enough away from home that I felt independent, but close enough that I could drive back if I wanted. I was heavily involved in research while I attended UCF, which is where I became interested in pursuing my doctoral degree. Throughout my time at UCF I worked as a research assistant and helped facilitate projects on ADHD and working memory deficits, body image development in 3-4-year olds, assessed family coping styles, and completed a thesis on acceptance of one’s own body image.
Where did you go to graduate school?
I attended The University of Texas at Austin for both my master’s degree as well as my doctoral degree (Hook em’!!). The University of Texas at Austin was an amazing school and completing my Ph.D. in Austin was a dream location for six years! My Ph.D. is in Educational Psychology with minors in School Psychology and Pediatric Psychology. I originally wanted to become a professor and do research and teach at a university, however, after attending graduate school for a few years I decided I loved working within children’s hospitals and acute psychiatric hospitals more and decided to pursue a more applied clinical route. It was within these children’s hospitals and inpatient units that I was able to learn more about eating disorders and work with clients struggling for recovery.
Why did you decide to become a psychologist?
I was able to see therapists and psychologists when I was younger when my parents divorced and remarried as well as in college. There was a profound shift in my early 20s when I began recognizing more of who I was, and I give credit to the therapist I saw during that time for helping me with that.
My other passion is research and education. The field of psychology is relatively new compared to mathematics, art, medicine, or physics – so there is constant learning within the field, which makes it exciting and relevant.
What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about eating disorder treatment and advocacy. I became interested in body image research after assisting on a large study that examined changes in body image in 3-4-year olds following exposure to image-based media. That sparked something in me – there was something about transcribing tapes of interviews of three & four-year-old children who said they wanted “whiter skin”, “flatter stomachs”, and “to be skinny”. It was heartbreaking, and I wanted to do more to help people develop a more positive or neutral body image.
Over 12 years later I am now a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, I provide trainings and presentations on eating disorders, sit on the board of the Tampa chapter of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, almost exclusively treat clients with eating disorders at my private practice, and co-lead a free eating disorder support group for parents and loved ones.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have two cats – Munchie and Broccoli. Munchie was a stray alley cat I found munching on some food in a dumpster and decided I was going to keep her. Broccoli is my new kitten – loving named after my favorite vegetable!
Tell us your favorite joke!
I’m stealing this one from Dr. Mann…since she just told it to me last week!
1: Want to hear a joke about paper!?
1: Never mind, it’s tearable.
What are the client ages you work with?
I work with clients of all ages, however because I specialize in eating disorder treatment many of my clients are between 12-40 years old. Most of my doctoral training was with children, teens, and families, however I have been treating young adults and adults since 2014.
What clinical rotations have you done, and how have these shaped you as a clinician?
I’ve had the ability to work in a wide variety of settings including public and charter schools, community mental health clinics, child and adolescent acute psychiatric facilities, children’s hospitals, residential treatment centers for addiction and eating disorders, partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs for eating disorders, and now in private practice.
I think the most influential settings were the adolescent wing of the state psychiatric hospital in Austin as well as children’s hospitals in Austin and Palo Alto. I tend to feel comfortable treating clients that are in crisis or those who have comorbid medical and psychiatric illnesses. It was within these two settings that I found my footing as a therapist, developed an understanding of my role as a mental health advocate, and worked with treatment teams to help my clients feel better. These two settings provided integrated medicine – which is why I named my practice Integrated Care Clinic. I value the treatment team approach to medicine and wellness and forming a group with highly skilled and specialized psychologists and dietitians was my goal.
Tell us about your internship/residency?
I completed my predoctoral residency at Stanford Children’s Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Psychology Consortium in Palo Alto, California. I am so grateful for my time there as I was able to gain so much knowledge about eating disorders from some of the biggest researchers in the country. One of my rotations was in the eating disorder inpatient unit, where patients were medically hospitalized for their eating disorders. It was here that I received advanced education and training in Family Based Treatment (FBT or Maudsley).
Since residency, I have worked in all ‘levels of care’ for eating disorder treatment including residential treatment centers, partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, and outpatient in Texas, California, and Florida.
What hobbies do you have? What do you like to do in your free time?
My whole family lives in Tampa Bay –I am a native myself. In my free time I enjoy spending time with them, going sailing, snorkeling, fishing – pretty much anything that involves the water. I also love a good game night with friends.
Do you have any certifications?
Yes! I am a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, an Approved iaedp Supervisor (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals), as well as in the process of becoming an Intensively Trained Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapist. I also have advanced training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with children and adolescents with anxiety disorders.
What was your doctoral dissertation/research topic?
My dissertation examined the belief systems of youth with anxiety disorders. I developed a questionnaire on the world views 13-17-year-olds have about anxiety and their ability to cope with the world around them and validated it through a series of experiments and data collection. Then once I knew my questionnaire was valid, I asked nearly 500 teenagers to fill it out. It was a long and complicated process, but I was able to support a theory that we’ve long known has held true in adults – and show that it is also supported in teens.
What was your master’s thesis about?
My masters thesis examined friendship development in youth with social anxiety. I was interested in helping young people connect with others, especially those struggling with social anxiety. I conducted research on friendship expectations and friendship quality – trying to assess exactly how we make friends and build lasting relationships. In my theses, I developed a content module to help youth with social anxiety learn how to connect and make friends, which I added to an evidence-based treatment (CBT) for anxiety disorders in youth (Coping Cat).
What do you plan to learn next in your career? Any areas you’d like to learn more about?
I am currently geeking out about RO-DBT (Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy). It is a treatment for people with too much self-control. After completing my 80-hour training I will become an Intensively Trained Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapist. I feel this evidence-based treatment was ideal for me to learn as many of my clients struggle with over-control. They tend to be able to hold their emotions in, focus on productivity, and may appear stable – however they tend to report higher levels of emotional loneliness as they find it difficult to connect with others in meaningful ways. They sometimes struggle with anxiety, depression, or eating disorders.
What is your style when it comes to therapy?
Over the past few years I have almost exclusively treated clients with eating disorders, body image issues, or food related anxiety issues. I utilize research to inform my treatment approach and modalities since eating disorders can be quite difficult to treat. I enjoy working with evidence-based treatments such as CBT, RO-DBT, ERP, and FBT.
I tend to be a tough therapist when it comes to eating disorder recovery. I focus on symptom reduction as an initial goal, such as decreasing binging or purging, or increasing nutritional intake, prior to focusing on relational or interpersonal aspects to an eating disorder. I am an advocate for my client’s recovery, and I will support them to reach full recovery.