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June 21, 2023

The Power of Family-Based Treatment in Adolescent Recovery

Family-based treatment (FBT), also known as the Maudsley method or Maudsley approach, is widely regarded as the treatment of choice for children and adolescents with eating disorders. Extensive research has consistently shown the efficacy of FBT, and our experience at Veritas Collaborative supports these positive results. Specifically, we have observed that adolescent patients who engage in FBT achieve the most favorable outcomes when compared to non-FBT treatment approaches utilized for this age group.

At Veritas Collaborative, we use this evidence-based treatment method because we understand that involving a patient’s family in treatment is essential to their successful recovery. 

What is Family-Based Treatment?

Family-based treatment is an eating disorder treatment approach that recognizes the active and positive role parents play in their child’s recovery. It emphasizes that parents did not cause their child’s eating disorder and instead can be instrumental to recovery. FBT involves actively involving caregivers in the treatment process, harnessing the support and structure they offer their children.

FBT principles can be integrated across levels of care, including inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization/intensive outpatient treatment programs (PHP/IOP), and outpatient services. Parents actively participate in the treatment process, receiving education and training in FBT principles. Their involvement not only facilitates a smooth transition as the child progresses through care but also enhances the overall effectiveness of the treatment approach.

Family-based treatment traditionally includes three phases: working to eliminate eating disorder behaviors, empowering the adolescent around eating, and helping the adolescent to nurture an identity outside of the eating disorder.

Phase 1: Reducing eating disorder behaviors and ensuring nourishment

In patients with anorexia, the first objective of FBT is typically helping the patient achieve an appropriate weight. The patient, their parents, and the treatment team collaborate with the shared goal of transitioning the patient from a significantly low body weight to a weight more appropriate for their body’s needs. In cases of bulimia or binge eating disorder (BED), FBT focuses first on reducing the bingeing and/or purging behaviors while also addressing the shame and secrecy that often come with these specific eating disorder behaviors. If the patient has ARFID, FBT aims to help the child increase the types and variety of food consumed. It will also include education for parents on the factors unique to ARFID and how and when to introduce new foods (Rienecke, 2017).

Phase 2: Empowering the patient to take a more active role

After the patient has made some progress in recovery, they can gradually assume a more active role in managing their eating behaviors. This second phase of FBT emphasizes the importance of empowering children and adolescents to make their own choices. As part of this transition, parents may, for instance, permit their child to independently consume snacks without supervision. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that control may need to be reestablished if the child shows signs of relapse into previous eating disorder behaviors.

Phase 3: Addressing adolescent issues and establishing independence

Once the patient has developed the ability to eat independently, FBT shifts toward helping them rediscover their identity. This stage focuses on identity building and any concerns not previously addressed. Parents and providers help the patient explore issues such as body dysmorphia, co-occurring disorders, and any other factors that hinder the patient from fully participating in adolescent life. Identity building can also mean helping the child find activities that bring them joy and confidence that have nothing to do with what they look like. Throughout this phase, parents maintain their supportive role, aiding their children in advocating for themselves within the family dynamic.

Family-Based Treatment shows remarkable efficacy in fostering recovery and preventing recurring relapses, which is precisely why it is a pillar of Veritas Collaborative’s adolescent treatment programs. We understand that parents know their children better than anyone, and therefore, they are a crucial aspect of eating disorder treatment. 

To gain further insights into Family-Based Treatment provided at Veritas Collaborative’s eating disorder treatment centers, contact us at 855-875-5812. If you suspect that your child is experiencing an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help today or explore our comprehensive programs for children and adolescents here.