Family-Based Therapy: Three Steps to Anorexia Recovery, Part I

When I read the words “three steps to…” I usually think, “Oh, here we go. Someone is about to tell me that something very difficult is really very easy.”

Rest assured, that is not going to happen here. I am a licensed treating professional with more than two decades of experience treating eating disorders, but I am first and foremost a parent too, and I know that all individual or family-based positive change takes persistence, patience, effort, and time.

So what I am about to share with you is not easy at all – but it is very possible, and it is highly effective. In this two-part blog series on implementing Family-Based Therapy (also called the Maudsley Method) for recovery from anorexia nervosa, we will examine the reasons behind the newfound acceptance and popularity of a family-based approach to treatment, as well as the three steps every family will follow to implement family-based therapy in the home.

The role of the parent in eating disorders recovery has long been a controversial one. In the past, treating professionals have commonly regarded parents as, if not the main culprits, at the very least a large part of the problem. Parents have been cordoned off from the treating area, banned from the therapy room, locked out of the kitchen.

Today that thought process is changing. Efforts from concerned parents such as Laura Collins, the author of “Eating With Your Anorexic” and founder of the F.E.A.S.T. parent support and advocacy group, and treating professionals like Dr. James Lock, co-author of the “Treatment Method for Anorexia Nervosa: A Family-Based Approach,” have reassured parents that they do have a place in the treatment process – and a vital role that only a parent can fill.

Additionally, there is a growing body of scientifically-sound research that highlights the efficacy of involving the parent in the adolescent’s recovery. The message is clear – parents can learn, parents can help, parents are needed.

For parents of an anorexic child or adolescent, this is very, very good news!

For single parents who are concerned that the process won’t work without a parental team, there is even more good news. Recent research has shown that the FBT approach can work equally well with a single parent head of household. The main determinant of success is not dual parenting but rather parent education, commitment, and involvement in the process.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 when we examine the three phases of FBT, what a parent can expect during each phase, and a big picture look at a typical outcome for families who adopt the FBT approach.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than twenty years’ experience with successfully treating eating disorders, disordered eating, body image, self esteem, recovery, health, and wellness concerns in children, adolescents, young and mature adults. Our caring, compassionate, professional and highly trained staff partners with you and your family to smoothly navigate all three phases of the Family-Based Therapy (FBT) process. Discover how rewarding and satisfying it can be to become an active participant in your child or adolescent’s health and wellness by contacting us at

Be Well,


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