Australian TV show discusses Maudsley and Mandometer

Isn't it terrible when siblings argue? If only they knew they've got so much more in common than they have to argue about.

I felt that way when I watched, online, the Australian show "Insight" which featured eating disorders, titled "Starving for Answers." (go down menu at right to see entire show in 3 sections)

The show had a high ratio of sense to nonsense and explored a lot that rarely gets into the media. Of particular interest: an adult male sufferer, interviewees who absolutely refused to take the bait on questions of "how low did your weight go," and Dr. Ken Nunn's wonderful description of the "cascade" of mechanisms in the brain that trigger symptoms and then prevent recovery once malnutrition sets in (the last few minutes of part 2 of 3).

I was overjoyed to see the Oak House and Westmead Hospital staff discussing family-based Maudsley treatment as if it was normal. And I always enjoy hearing more about Mandometer treatment. I was less pleased to see the two put into opposition. Maudsley and Mandometer share more than an initial letter: they both represent a repudiation of the traditional "parentectomy" and "it's all about control" treatments. These philosophical siblings waste time arguing about each other - but the real threat is the 99% of treatments available to families around the world that is unsupported, antiquated, and doesn't work.

Kids, stop fighting. Maybe we need to get them all in for a session of family therapy?


  1. I'll lift a fork to that. I've been told that the Mandometer folks make almost a business out of attacking other programs, especially Maudsley.

    God knows there's enough "business" to go around, unfortunately.

  2. While the feedback from the Mandometer people about other programs IS usually aggressive, it is also true that they have been attacked fairly vigorously by the other side too, especially here in Europe where the influence of "traditional" theories is less.

    I think in some ways this is a case of a dialectic struggle between theorists who hope that they will shed real light on a fascinating subject but who don't realise that real people with personal reasons (as in suffering or caring for those who suffer) for being obsessional about the subject will be listening in.

    At this talk
    the speakers (GOOD people with not an advocate of parentectomies in sight) struggled to square their enthusiasm for academic research with the need to be sensitive towards the needs of individuals in the audience.

  3. I am so supportive of Maudsley, I'm now hearing that it has a 90% recovery rate. Really gives parents hope!

  4. I only watched clips of the show (and half the time I was intoxicated by the accents), but I think it's bad that this argument gets in the way of a meaningful discussion on different, effective treatment modalities. I'm really intrigued by Mandometer, though not their PR aspects.

    I'm generally in favor of whatever works. My mom has loved working with the Maudsley approach because she says she finally feels part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

  5. I think the Family Therapy sounds a great idea. It's a pitty this guy 's mother has passed away. He did a lovely sketch about how she could have solved world problems by banging a few heads together.

  6. Harriet, I felt that the show was really more the other way around.

    My daughter Claire was featured in the Mandometer documentary part of the show. We felt we needed to tell her story as the Mandometer option is not as well known in Australia as it is elsewhere. It also receives no government funding, unlike many other eating disorder treatments here.

    We opted to try the Mandometer approach only when all other treatments had failed over a period of about four years. We attempted Maudsley based family therapy twice, each time with an excellent therapist. I have three other children and a very supportive husband, and we all did whatever it took, including supervising every meal (including those at school), providing support after meals, me giving up my job as a human rights lawyer. We even slept in the same room as our daughter for many months so that she wouldn't exercise or self-harm. We had some success with Maudsley when she first became sick at the age of 13, but when she relapsed at 16, we were dealing with a much more severe form of the illness.

    This does not mean that we are critical of Maudsley or attacking Maudsley - I believe that it can work, and I have seen it work for other families. I have also read Laura's excellent book "Eating with your Anorexic" a number of times.

    In our case, however, we simply had to try something else. Had we not tried the Mandometer treatment my daughter would either be dead now (she attempted suicide a number of times) or in an adult psychiatric institution on high doses of anti-depressants.

    Now she is drug-free, a normal weight, having regular periods again and back at school.

    It's unfortunate that the
    Mando and Maudsley are so often pitted against each other,as they both have so many good features, including the involvement of parents in the process.

    Surely the aim should be for sufferers to be able to access the type of care that best suits them. We are wasting time and energy having these petty "turf" wars - time and energy that could be better spent agitating governments to provide more support (financial and otherwise) for people with eating disorders and their families.


  7. I just wish either one were government funded. When you are a single mum who has to work, its pretty impossible to do either.

  8. Dear Anonymous

    Have you tried Westmead Children's Hospital - they provide the Maudsley based program on an outpatient basis and it is government funded.

    I believe that a number of parents who have used the Mandometer approach have been lobbying the government for funding in Australia. Some private health funds reimburse part of the cost of the treatment (eg: Medibank private)


  9. Great information Anne - I'm only sorry that like us you had to be made aware of it through the suffering of your daughter.

    It seems to me that there a lot of the background to the way these two treatment options which certainly don't seem to ME as an ordinary mother of a sufferer to be mutually exclusive, is economic.

    Individual professionals, Treatment Centres, and in the case of "socialised" systems like ours here in the UK and that of Sweden, whole countries have invested (not nearly enough in my opinion but I might be biased ;-)) in treatment options and cannot afford to look outside the box that they have put so much in to. Sad. Very sad.

  10. I agree Marcella. A bit more thinking "outside the box" by treatment professionals and others could only be a good thing for sufferers and their families.

    Some of the concepts of the Mandometer program are great. For example, a big component of our daughter's anorexia was her compulsion to exercise, which (I eventually realised) she could NOT control after her weight got below a certain point. The "warm rooms" at the clinic she attended helped enormously with this by reducing her anxiety after meals. Also - haveing a case worker support her through the "difficult" meals. I know families can do this too, but after four years, we were just not coping any more.

  11. Honestly, I see no conflict between Maudsley and Mandometer. I do, however, see a conflict between traditional approaches and either "M."


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