Family Therapy for Eating Disorders in Children & Adolescents

Specialists at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, recognize that the emotional and behavioral problems of a child with an eating disorder can affect everyone in the family. Our psychiatrists and psychologists offer family-based therapy for children and adolescents with eating disorders.

In this type of therapy, often recommended for children or teens with anorexia, parents and family members play an active, positive role in helping to restore a child’s weight to within an average range—and then transfer control over eating back to the child or teen.

This short term treatment, which usually takes place during 20 sessions over the course of 6 to 12 months, helps the family members to realize that no one is to blame for this serious illness, mobilizes the entire family to address the condition together, and helps the child gain weight in the home environment without requiring hospitalization.

The physical affects of starvation can intensify rigid thinking patterns and irritability in children or teens with anorexia. Arguments and conflict often flare up between parents and child, as well as siblings. Family-based therapy addresses problems in the family structure, helping to return parents and siblings to their proper roles. It also helps improve communication between all family members.

During family-based therapy, parents practice skills in the session, then use them with their children at home. Because changes in any part of the family dynamic can have a positive impact on the family as a whole, the improvements can be dramatic and long lasting.

Resources for Eating Disorders in Children & Adolescents
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