Research Paper: Family Therapy and Anorexia

Pages: 8 (2683 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Children  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] " As this study points out in its discussion, their follow-up is in line with other similar studies conducted and their follow-ups as well, when using family therapy, and shows positively that family therapy has a significant recovery rate over traditional therapy.

Since family therapy has been seeing positive outcomes in the small amount of research that has been conducted, Lock and Le Grange (2001), wrote an article about manualizing the family treatment that has been studied and used with most of the research (Phases I, II, & III), and conducting an experimental study using their manualized version of the Maudsley Model. As stated by Lock and Le Grange (2001), there are fewer than "nine randomized clinical treatment trails published [to date]" and less than 400 combined patients, which in the psychological community is a pitiful number indeed. For the various types of treatments that were studied, Lock and Le Grange (2001) found that family based therapy had the most support for successful recovery with teens. For their research, Lock and Le Grange (2001) had recruited a total of 43 families, but this particular article outlines outcomes for 19 of the families, which shows positive recovery in a significant percentage of patients, and that age, previous hospitalizations, and how emaciated the patients were affected outcomes. In the case of age, if the patient was older than 19 the therapy did not work as well (like previous findings in other studies), with previous hospitalization and how long the patient had been ill positively affected outcomes. Overall, it seems that a manualized version of family based therapy for anorexics is a step in the right direction for getting young adults the treatment the need for eating disorders.

Lastly, in a study conducted by Joyce Ma and Kelly Lai (2006), the family based therapy in previous research articles has been changed around a little to suit the particular needs of Chinese families who have daughters that are suffering from anorexia nervosa. In their study, Ma and Lai (2006) have outlined their family model in six steps: the first step is to remove the parents focus on what is causing the anorexia (in other words, playing the blame game), and instead focus on the symptoms of their daughters and forming a treatment program to help her to recover. The second step is to encourage parents to work with the therapist as well as their daughter to help her to recover by not forcing her to eat, criticizing her, or trying to control her. The third step is using therapy with the whole family to go over any unspoken resents, conflicts, or bruised relationships caused by the family fending for themselves prior to treatment. The fourth step is teaching parents and the patient to handle relapses, and the fifth step is supporting the patient is developing on their own, and (sixth step) the parents supporting their daughter in her development. All these changes to the Maudsley Model is in an effort to be culturally sensitive to the needs of Chinese families who have a child with an eating disorder (Ma, & Lai, 2006). With 29 patients, a majority feel that they are recovered, however with interviews conducted with the parents some felt that their daughters needed more work. However, several categories were improved upon that were not mentioned or studied in the other literature that has been looked at, such as: the lowering of the parents psychological distress before, during and after treatment was significant for parents, with a majority of them saying that well-being between parents was greatly improved; "reducing family conflicts and increasing family cohesions;" and enhancing the patients psychological well-being and increasing their self-esteem, confidence and positive body-image (Ma, & Lai, 2006).

For all of the literature and research that has been reviewed in this paper, there is one glaring and obvious aspect of each study that has definite room for improvement, and that is how many participants they each have. Obviously it is probably very difficult to get patients because they are usually not willing to admit there is anything wrong, that they are starving, and are not willing to go to treatment unless forced somehow to go, which directly undermines that chances of success for many (Oltmanns, & Emery, 2010). Also, not all the studies are looking at other aspects besides weight gain or development of bulimic symptoms, it would have been nice to know some of the things like was just outlined in the Ma and Lai study (2006), where the patients and their families found out how to relate to each other better, not just with the eating disorder, but better cohesiveness and conflict resolution.

In the future more studies need to be conducted that include a higher number of patients with their families, include different various of the family based therapy model that has been examined in this paper, conduct thorough follow-ups for all patients, include different groups of boys, girls, younger and older for comparison. Although this paper is primarily about the family-based model, there needs to be more studies completed on other alternative therapies for persons older than 19 for comparative reasons. Some other therapies available are the psychodynamic model, where the patient indentifies distorted perceptions of the self and brings awareness to those distortions; the cognitive behavioral model which serves to change the negative thought processes concerning weight, body image, and control; the feminist therapies helps young women to become free and independent and reject social prescribed roles; and lastly medication and nutritional counseling (Oltmanns, & Emery, 2010). Unfortunately, there is very little research available for these methods, and most of the time they do not work very effectively (Oltmanns, & Emery, 2010).

Prevention is key with encouraging a healthy body image, a healthy way of life by example from parents (healthy eating habits and methods of exercise), parents refraining from criticizing their own bodies in front of their children, limiting exposure to unhealthy media images, and keeping the lines of communication open without criticism.


Eisler, I. et al. (2005). Family therapy for adolescent anorexia nervosa: the results of a controlled comparison of two family interventions. The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry, 3(4), 629-639.

Eisler, I., Simic, M., Russel, G., & Dare, C. (2007). A randomised controlled treatment trials of two forms of family therapy in adolescent anorexia nervosa; a five-year follow-up. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(6), 552-560.

Hodes, M., Eisler, I., & Dare, C. (1991). Family therapy for anorexia nervosa in adolescence: a review. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 84, 359-361.

Lock, J., & Le Grange, D. (2001). Can family-based treatment of anorexia nervosa be manualized?. The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 10(4), 253-261.

Ma, J.L., & Lai, K. (2006). Perceived treatment effectiveness of family therapy for chinese patients suffering from anorexia nervosa: a qualitative inquiry. Journal of Family Social Work, 10(2), 59-72.

Nichols, M.P., & Schwartz, R.C. (2001). Family therapy: concepts and methods… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Family Therapy and Anorexia.  (2011, April 26).  Retrieved August 22, 2019, from

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