Not THAT kind of family therapy!

Parents new to the world of eating disorder treatment beware: there are two types of "family therapy."

One type of Family Therapy sees the illness as an expression of a problem in the family that must be fixed in order to solve the eating disorder. You can see an example of this kind of thinking in this article: Could Family Therapy Be Key To Treating Anorexia? This kind of therapy is sometimes called the Family Systems approach.

The other type, sometimes called Family-Based or Maudsley approach, treats the illness as the problem and recruits the family to fight the nutritional and behavioral symptoms so the patient can regain stability and health and rejoin the family and normal life.

Big difference. Good explanation HERE. Ask for what you want.


  1. It's all rather complex.

    Are you sure that the trial being described isn't one of Walter Kaye's ones that are comparing "traditional", FBT and/or Prozac? It sounds like it to me even though it's being described from the "opposite side" than the descriptions on the Round the Dinner Table forum. If so then I really hope that it helps ALL the families involved in the trials AND provides the rest of us with data as to what works and what doesn't.

    There also isn't really a divide between systemic family therapy and FBT - Ivan Eisler is the editor of the journal of Family Therapy "published on behalf of the association for family therapy and systemic practice"

  2. I actually discussed this with Dr. Eisler, and he made some pointed comments on the topic at ICED last year.

    In fact, I put his comment in the video available on the right.

    He doesn't see a divide because he assumes no one is using systemic therapy to blame families any more - he says the idea that the parents have caused the problem and need to be fixed "went out" decades ago.

    So I have no doubt that many Family Therapists are using FT in the way I would see as FBT. But most I speak to are not. This could be because most of the therapists I talk with are in the US.

    Marcella, your side of the pond never took to Freud and psychotherapy the way they do on our side. We have a lot of clearing away of old stuff to do here. It sounds as if your clinicians start out without much of the baggage, but there are far too few of them available.


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