New Research Supports Involvement of Parents as Key to Eating Disorder Recovery – Even With Adults

September 01, 2017

Sudbury, Ontario —

In the past, a parents’ involvement in the treatment of eating disorders was discouraged by well-intentioned therapists if they believed that the parents would interfere with the recovery process. Currently, many parents of adult children or parents who are critical or enable their child’s symptoms are kept on the outskirts of the recovery process. Now, a new series of studies demonstrate that the active involvement of parents can help to improve the outcomes for both teenagers and adults suffering from these disorders, even when they initially act in ways that seem counter-productive.
The first study looked at over a hundred parents of adolescents and adults with eating disorders. The team of researchers first sought to understand the root of “recovery-interfering behaviours” in parents, revealing that underlying these behaviors were feelings of fear and self-blame. Then the researchers tested the effectiveness of a new treatment method – Emotion-Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) – to help parents move through these emotions and support their child in a good way, and regardless of age. They found that the process helped, and without the need for extensive psychotherapy.
“Our research showed that these reactions, fueled by fear and self-blame, can be transformed so that parents can become positive agents of change and support their loved one through their treatment,” says Dr. Adèle Lafrance, a university professor, psychologist and co-developer of EFFT. “Using the EFFT method involves parents and caregivers in a significant way as well as healing some old family wounds in the process.”
The EFFT treatment model involves dealing with the negative emotions, while teaching parents the skills and techniques needed to care for a family member suffering with an eating disorder. As such, parents feel more empowered to participate in the healing process, and without the fear of making things worse.  
“Everything we know about the neuroscience of parent-child relationships supports involving parents more, not less – no matter if the child is 14 or 40,” states Lafrance. “We also have to stop excluding parents from treatment when they behave in ways that are less than ideal. Our research shows that with some targeted support, they can play a very positive role in the recovery of their child’s eating disorder.”

For more information, and to arrange interviews with researchers or parents, please contact:
Dr. Adèle Lafrance, Associate Professor at Laurentian University, Clinical Psychologist
Cell:     316-351-4543                                          
Full research articles: 
The influence of carer fear and self-blame when supporting a loved one with an eating disorder
Amanda Stillar, Erin Strahan, Patricia Nash, Natasha Files, Jennifer Scarborough, Shari Mayman, Katherine Henderson, Joanne Gusella, Laura Connors, Emily S. Orr, Patricia Marchand, Joanne Dolhanty & Adèle Lafrance Robinson
Increasing parental self-efficacy with emotion-focused family therapy for eating disorders: a process model
Erin Strahan, Amanda Stillar, Natasha Files, Patricia Nash, Jennifer Scarborough, Laura Connors, Joanne Gusella, Katherine Henderson, Shari Mayman, Patricia Marchand, Emily S. Orr, Joanne Dolhanty & Adèle Lafrance Robinson
For more information, visit: http://mentalhealthfoundations/ca  

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