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Family therapy an effective way to treat anorexic teens

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today on a new study showing how parents can aid in the recovery of adolescents with anorexia:

In the strongest evidence to date to suggest families should be involved in treatment, a 121-patient study published Monday found that a therapy in which parents remain present at each meal until an anorexic child eats appears to be more effective in fostering recovery than when a child works solely with a therapist.

The so-called Maudsley model - developed at Maudsley Hospital in London more than 20 years ago - calls for parents to take charge of feeding a severely underweight child, "making it impossible not to eat," said Daniel Le Grange, one of the study's authors and director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of Chicago.

Stanford/Lucile Packard Children's Hospital psychiatrist James Lock, MD, PhD, was co-lead author of the study, which was the first head-to-head comparison of individual therapy and the family-based approach. Noting in a release that the research was "desperately needed,” Lock said he hopes the findings will be embraced by clinicians:

Although both treatments were helpful to a proportion of patients, this study strongly suggests that as first-line treatment, in general, family-based interventions are superior...

The model of putting kids in the hospital, which excludes parents, or of professionals expecting young adolescents to manage their own eating without their parents’ help when they’re immersed in anorexic thinking, really should be reconsidered.

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