family therapy for people with eating disorders

from medicalnews a few days ago:

bulimia treatment success doubles when parents involved in therapy

mobilizing parents to help an adolescent overcome the disorder can double the percentage of teens who were able to abstain from binge eating and purging after six months.

a team based at the university of chicago medical center showed that almost 40 percent of participants in family-based treatment had stopped binging and purging compared to only 18 percent of those who received supportive psychotherapy, the standard therapy. six months after treatment, almost 30 percent of participants who received family-based treatment were still abstinent compared to only 10 percent of participants who received supportive psychotherapy, which focuses on issues underlying the eating disorder.

“parents are in a unique position to help their adolescents,” says study author dr daniel le grange, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the eating disorders program at the university of chicago, “yet treatment typically excludes them from the process. now we have the evidence that we need to bring them back in.”

in family-based treatment, parents and at times even siblings attend clinic sessions with the patient. parents play an active follow-up role at home, encouraging their adolescents to eat as normally as possible, then monitoring them during and after meals to make sure they eat and are not tempted to purge.

although the family-based approach produced superior results, the research team is uncertain whether it was the family involvement or the focus on eating behavior found in family-based treatment that was responsible for the improved outcomes.

first i was surprised that this was treated as news. after all, the very first time i read about the treatment of eating disorders was in a book by salvador minuchin, family kaleidoscope, written in 1986. in it, minuchin makes it quite clear that often, eating disorders are a problem that necessitates involvement of the whole family.

apparently, though, it looks like le grange’s program is at least partly based on minuchin’s work. the new findings also seem to be related specifically to bulimic adolescents. interestingly enough, young persons with bulimia had hardly been studied; the belief was that onset of bulimia was between 18 and 24.

see here for an overview of research on families of persons with anorexia and here for some thoughts on families of persons with bulimia.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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