Young adults with anorexia: family-based treatment for 17-25 year olds

Last updated on July 20th, 2020

Are you wondering if family therapy is suitable for your young adult with anorexia?

It looks like it might be, according to ongoing research.

I find this very exciting, because the most common alternatives involve individual therapy, requiring an awful lot of motivation to eat and gain weight. If people, whatever their age, cannot access the ability to self-motivate and eat, they eventually need an inpatient unit, where nurses require people to eat and gain weight, just like parents could have done much earlier at home. Then when people get out, there may still be no structure to get family support.

I believe people need a lot more support, whatever their age.

On forums I read parents' experiences of using FBT/Maudsley pretty much in the same way as they did when their child was younger.

If you think you can't possibly take charge of your son or daughter's eating because they are older and used to a high level of autonomy, then FBT-TAY (family-based treatment for transition-age youth) may be the answer. It's an adaptation of FBT, where with a therapist's help, the young person takes on a little more ownership of their treatment. This works if they agree, at least in principle, to have their parents' help.

For more on this, head over to my article on mirror-mirror here.

Mirror-Young adults anorexia family therapy

It summarises findings in a chapter of this excellent book (which all clinicians should have). More research from Gina Dimitropoulos, Kristen Anderson, James Lock and Daniel Le Grange is due to be published. Sign up for emails from me for news.

For more help regarding adults being supported by their family and using an FBT-style approach, head over to Tabitha Farrar's excellent resources (podcast, YouTubes, blog, books).

For a review of the research on treatment for adults, see Glenn Waller (2016), ‘Recent advances in psychological therapies for eating disorders

2 Replies to “Young adults with anorexia: family-based treatment for 17-25 year olds”

  1. Oh dear, it sounds awful. It is really common for children who were very close to reject us big-time when an eating disorder is affecting so many of their thoughts and emotions. Often they seem to reject most the person they were the closest to, that they felt the safest with (who will not abandon them), maybe the person who normally puts food on the table and who has been asking them to eat. I wrote about this in detail in Chapter 14. The main thing is, as the eating disorder recedes, our children become very close again. Maybe this will give you hope.

  2. My daughter has been in hospital 4 3 months – prior to my getting her treated we got on well. Now she is going to live with my mother in law who has verbally abused me. She has totally withdrawn from me – is this anorexic or teenage behaviour? I live in Australia with no family support.

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