Family Therapy is about fostering growth and understanding.
Family Therapy has proven to be an important element in the treatment of patients with eating disorders. For adolescent patients, getting the family involved with therapy is considered essential, and family therapy can be equally important for adults. Family sessions for adults can include family of origin, current family, or members of a close support network.
Through therapy, families come to discover how changes in the way they communicate, manage conflict, or tolerate negative emotions can aid in their loved one’s recovery. Specifically for children and adolescents, family therapy emphasizes a strong parental alliance, resolution of family difficulties and support for the adolescent’s developing independence. Family therapy also helps support people understand the role the eating disorder has played within their family, what factors may be maintaining the disorder, and how to differentiate between their family member and their family member’s illness.
At the Center for Eating Disorders we use a supportive, non-blaming approach.
Misconceptions and misinformation about eating disorders throughout history have, at times, led people to blame parents and family members for their loved one’s illness. This is not only unhelpful but inaccurate. Eating disorders are complex illnesses with a combination of contributing factors, none of which can single-handedly trigger an eating disorder. While families help to mold an individual’s early environment, research and experience has shown again and again that individuals with eating disorders can come from many different family backgrounds with very diverse characteristics, unique experiences and various parenting styles.
How can we as a family work together to support our loved one’s recovery during treatment?
Having an eating disorder can be a very scary and distressing experience for an individual. Family members and loved ones often experience a heightened level of worry and suffering too as they see their loved one struggling. At the Center for Eating Disorders we help families examine communication, emotions within the family system, and relationship patterns that may have been impacted by the eating disorder or are enabling eating disorder behaviors to be maintained. Families are also encouraged to work together to support positive changes that will aid in the recovery process and promote continued growth and healing for the family.
Family Involvement is encouraged at all levels of care.
At the Center for Eating Disorders we provide a variety of options for family therapy and support options for parents, significant others and loved ones. Services for family and support people currently include:
- Family Therapy Sessions – At every level of care we incorporate opportunities for the patient to engage in family therapy sessions that support their personalized treatment goals. Family therapy respects the unique structure and functioning of each family system. Just as individual therapy is personalized, so is family therapy. Our specially-trained therapists utilize the most appropriate therapeutic approach for each family which may include Internal Systems Family Therapy, Structural Family therapy or Family-Based Therapy (see below). Our inpatient and partial hospital programs hold family therapy sessions twice a week, with family teleconferences available for families residing outside the region.
- Couples Therapy – When one partner in a relationship is struggling with an eating disorder it can have a significant impact on the other person and on the relationship as a whole. Furthermore, eating disorders are often associated with high levels of secrecy, negative body image, decreased sexual desire and effects on fertility, all of which can impact intimacy with a spouse or partner. These and other important issues can be addressed during couples therapy on an outpatient basis, or during family sessions throughout the higher levels of care.
- Family-Based Treatment (FBT) – Also known as the Maudsley Approach, FBT is an evidence-based model of outpatient therapy for families of children and adolescents with anorexia or bulimia. During FBT, parents play a very active role in helping their child restore a normal weight and regain stability in eating. When appropriate, FBT is recommended as a first line of treatment for children/adolescents who are safe to be treated outside of a hospital setting and can comply with the treatment protocol. FBT therapists are specially trained to guide families in this 3-phase, intensive therapeutic model. Our family therapy staff includes two of the few officially certified Maudsley family therapists in the country. (Training Institute for Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders)
- Therapeutic Family Snack & Therapeutic Family Meals - Elements of FBT have also been adapted and integrated into our higher levels of care to help provide parents and family members with more active and engaged roles in their loved one’s recovery process during hospitalization. For example, parents of minors are engaged in meal selection and nutrition education during inpatient and partial hospitalization. This model more closely matches developmentally appropriate feeding models, helps parents build familiarity with the prescribed meal plan, and increases family comfort with implementing the meal plan when their child or adolescent returns home from the hospital.
- Multi-Family Therapy Group – During the intensive outpatient program, parents or other significant family members have the opportunity to join the patient for dinner. After the meal, they have an opportunity to explore family issues and feedback from other families and patients in a multi-family therapy group.
- 4-week Inpatient & PHP Collaborative Care Workshops - A workshop series that combines support, education and skills training to help caregivers provide an environment that is practically and emotionally supportive of their loved one's recovery. Open to family and close friends during their loved one's stay in our inpatient or partial hospital programs. This group takes place every Saturday for 4-week modules. Email Dina Wientge for more information.
Weekly Collaborative Care workshops are also available for current IOP families on Tuesday evenings. Please contact Morgan Krumeich, PsyD at (410) 938-5232 for details.
- 6-week Outpatient Collaborative Care Groups – These sessions, based on the work of Dr. Janet Treasure, are designed to provide education regarding eating disorders and basic clinical skills that will allow parents and family members to aid in continuity of care and support between the treatment setting and the home. Caregivers of patients who have completed the inpatient program are strongly encouraged to participate in this workshop series as their loved one transitions to a lower level of care. However, the workshops are OPEN to all support people during any stage of a loved one's treatment and recovery. This group meets on Tuesday evenings for 6-week modules. Read more about collaborative care on our blog or email Dr. Jennifer Moran to register.
- Weekly Family Education & Support Group – click the link for more information about this group
- Community Support Group for Individuals with EDs and their support people – click the link for more information about this group
If you have questions about our programming for families, please contact us. You may also wish to subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates and event invitations that may be of special interest to loved ones and support people.
Click here to meet our team of Licensed Social Workers or take a virtual tour to hear our Family Therapy Coordinator discuss family treatment at The Center for Eating Disorders.
It is our belief that families are integral to the healing and recovery process and we encourage involvement whenever possible. However, please be mindful that we fully respect and honor the privacy and confidentiality of our individual patients. In compliance with HIPAA and our internal privacy policies, we cannot release information about an adult patient’s treatment status/progress, even to loved ones, without a signed release form from the patient.