>U Mom Knows Best: Family Involvement Is the Key to Adolescent Eating Disorder Recovery

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Family Involvement Is the Key to Adolescent Eating Disorder Recovery



 Difficult times and situations happen to everyone - and a support system is a vital component of navigating the challenges. Eating disorders are no exception. Since they are both medically risky and clear examples of mental illness, eating disorders can prove to be special challenges to treat, and a full recovery may involve several different treatment methods. Especially in cases of adolescent eating disorders, where the client’s parents are still huge influences on their son or daughter’s development, eating disorder treatment must have a solid and effective family component that allows the individual to build a recovery strategy around a solid family support system.


How an Eating Disorder Treatment Center Can Involve the Family
 Admission to an eating disorder treatment program isn’t a step anyone takes lightly. It can be intimidating, and even though the treatments they provide can save lives, there can be an adjustment period, especially for adolescents. Additionally, in some cases, parental pressure to be “thin” or “watch your weight” is often a contributing factor to eating disorder development, meaning the family members may need education on how to avoid these triggers and pressures.

 Whether a teen’s eating disorder has been influenced by media imagery or accidentally contributed to by their family, an eating disorder therapist can help both the client and her family reframe their negative thoughts and feelings. For example, instead of focusing on a girl's weight or body shape as a way to reach a certain dress size, part of an eating disorder treatment center's program would emphasize the importance of eating in a healthy and nutritionally sound manner. The family members, in this case, would gain knowledge of how to support appropriate eating habits and avoid trigger words and situations.

Family Therapy: Creating a Strong Foundation for Recovery
 Virtually every accredited eating disorder treatment center program focuses on individual and group talk therapy. Individual therapy is a time for the eating disorder therapist to focus exclusively on the client, exploring internal factors like a person’s self-image and unspoken feelings. Conversely, group therapy is an opportunity to put their struggles with eating and movement into perspective with people who are going through some of the same challenges. Participating in group therapy takes away the perception that only that particular person is having the problems she is facing.

 Family therapy differs slightly from group therapy, as it is hyper-focused on the family dynamic with an eye toward post-treatment continuation of the recovery. When engaging in family therapy at an eating disorder treatment center, the client and her family with the opportunity to explore the complex nature of their relationship. Because there is no support system closer than an immediate family, the lessons learned here can be applied after “graduation,” and family members can use them to continue their support for years to come. In recovering from what can be a life-threatening disease, like anorexia nervosa, this family support can make the difference between ongoing recovery and relapses.



What Happens During Family Therapy?
 It’s not unusual for family members to be somewhat reluctant to participate in a family therapy session. There could be a fear that the time spent with the eating disorder therapist will result in an environment of blame and hostility – families often have resentments and feuds, of course.
The positive news is, in addition to focusing on the disordered behavior of the client and how to overcome it, family therapy can also strengthen the family’s relationship and help them to become closer by setting specific goals. In many cases, these goals are tied to the issues that could have contributed to the individual's eating disorder.

 Another component of family therapy is to provide family members with elements of support that can help their loved ones recover. Healthy coping skills and long-term family involvement are key factors in an individual attaining their healthy self. Families often find this type of therapy so valuable that they continue it after their loved one is no longer receiving treatment at the eating disorder center.



1 comment:

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