When a person with an eating disorder has a family or sufficient support network, a family approach to treatment can be appropriate. These approaches will primarily be used by a psychologist, however may also be practiced by psychiatrists, social workers and counsellors.
Family-based treatment (Maudsley Therapy)
Family Based Treatment (FBT) is a treatment program that involves the entire family or care support network of the person with the eating disorder. This approach is most often used for adolescents and young adults where the carers are responsible for re-feeding and monitoring weight gain. For adolescents, FBT is currently the treatment with the strongest evidence base.
Family-based treatment has three phases; the first phase involves empowering family members and carers to change the person’s disordered eating behaviours. The second phase involves passing the control of eating and weight gain back to the person with the eating disorder. The third stage focuses on addressing the person with the eating disorder’s psychological and emotional development. This treatment has been found to be effective in the treatment of child/adolescent Anorexia Nervosa.
Supportive family therapy
Supportive family therapy aims to increase insight for the person with the eating disorder and their family into the contributing factors to the development of the eating disorder such as early life experiences or maturational conflicts. This can help the person ‘let go’ of the eating disorder as a coping strategy.
Supportive family therapy addresses the way families communicate and support each other. This approach to therapy can provide a supportive context for the person with the eating disorder to make decisions and positive changes such as developing normal eating and exercise habits.
Supportive Family Therapy places a strong focus on the therapeutic relationship and aims to help establish more satisfying family relationships. This treatment has been found to be effective in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa.