Family Therapy is Cutting Edge Treatment
for a Family Disease
Eating disorders are
young children, teens and young adults who live at home become afflicted
with an eating disorder, everybody who comes in contact with that
individual suffers - including parents, siblings and grandparents.
tend to be the primary diagnosticians of an eating disorder in their
child. This is because eating disorders predominantly show up around
kitchen tables, and in family bathrooms, rarely in the doctor&Mac226;s
office. In addition, their presence is typically silent in laboratory
Recovery too, happens at home, over time, alongside parents and
siblings, throughout the course of daily living; this is particularly
the case in the face of the limited services provided through managed
care these days. Patients typically spend 45 minutes a week with their
therapist or doctor. For the rest, 24/7, kids live out their recovery at
home, or at school.
research carried out at the Maudsley Hospital of London England, it has
been proven that family treatment is more effective than individual
psychotherapy for anorexics living at home that have been ill for less
than 3 years.
nature of parental involvement will vary widely with the age and needs
of the child, the skills and capacities of the parent, and the nature
and quality of the ever-changing parent/child CONNECTION.
Family Therapy is the most effective way to treat everyone’s needs.
Parents and siblings are deeply affected by the presence of an eating
disorder within the family system. Family members need an outlet to
understand the disease and recovery processes, a forum to communicate
their concerns and needs with the patient and with each other, and the
opportunity to learn how best to support the recovery process. They often
need personal support and bolstering in the face of what typically tends
to be an extended, convoluted and at times discouraging recovery process
for the afflicted individual. Family therapy provides that vehicle.
The individual child's efforts to make recovery changes are facilitated
and enhanced not only by a family that understands the recovery process,
but by family members who make their own parallel personal changes to
accommodate the needs and requirements of the changing child and family
Eating disorder psychotherapists are responsible to "grow" the
relationship between parent and child, for that is where the greatest and
most effective capacity for healing lies. Therapists must demonstrate
respect for the power of the family system in eradicating (or possibly
The potential for the family unit to bring about constructive change is
far greater than the sum of its parts. Kids get far better, far faster
when families can be involved in constructive ways. Not only that, kids
who learn to function better with family members carry these valuable
interpersonal skills over into their other relationships as well, and life
gets to be a healthier, happier place to be.
Appropriate parental involvement is an enhancement to recovery, despite
the warnings of misguided health professionals who may imply that eating
disorders are caused by parental involvement (interference) in their
children's lives, that the disordered adolescent requires autonomy and
independence from parents in order to get well and separate healthfully
from the family. Such a professional might exclude the child's parents
from the psychotherapy process in order to protect patient/therapist
privilege (confidentiality rights). This kind of advice would indicate
that the professional is unaware of the unique needs and requirements of
eating disorder treatment, the benefits of conjoint family treatment for
the child who lives at home, or the power of the family system to support
the child&Mac226;s recovery. It might also indicate a therapist who is
either untrained or inexperienced with eating disorder treatment or is
otherwise uncomfortable facilitating family treatment.
Loving one’s child is not enough. Parents need to act on the knowledge
they acquire. Parental involvement may vary from providing:
On-going and unconditional support day in, day out.
Nutritious meals which they prepare and sit down to eat together with
monitoring of food intake and symptom management,.
Involvement in family treatment to support the child and recovery
process and to resolve underlying emotional issues that may be driving
Psychotherapist Abigail H. Natenshon
(MA, LCSW, GCFP)
has specialized in the treatment of
eating disorders with individuals, families, and groups for the past
31years. She is the author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder, A
Step-by-Step Workbook For Parents And Other Caregivers, Jossey-Bass, 1999.
Based on hundreds of successful outcomes, this book shepherds concerned
parents step-by-step through the processes of eating disorder recognition,
confronting the child, finding the most effective treatment for patient
and family, and evaluating and insuring a timely recovery. A guide to
eating disorder prevention, this book is useful to parents, health
professionals and school personnel alike in countering the pervasive
epidemic of unhealthy eating and body image concerns, and destructive
media and peer influences.
Abigail is also a Guild Certified Feldenkrais
Practitioner. Her work can be reviewed further at
www.empoweredkidZ.com and her
book is available through Amazon.com
Abigail H. Natenshon, MA, LCSW, GCFP
Author of "When
Your Child Has an Eating Disorder:
A Step-by-Step Workbook For Parents and Other Caregivers"
A Family Approach to Healthy Eating,
Positive Body Image and the Prevention and Healing of Eating Disorders