Even though eating disorders (ED) represent an unhealthy relationship with food and harmful eating habits, they are severe psychological conditions that involve much more than a bad attitude about food.
As such, eating disorders require evidence-based treatment. Psychotherapy is an essential component of ED treatment. Your therapy may last anywhere from a few months to several years, so it’s important to stay determined.
Therapy for eating disorders can be part of a multidisciplinary approach involving talking therapy (individual, couples, or family therapy), nutrition psychoeducation, and medical care. For example, your treatment team could include your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist, registered dietitian, partner, parents, and other family members.
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How Can Eating Disorder Psychotherapy Help?
Psychotherapy can help you:
- Understand the underlying causes of your eating disorder
- Normalise your relationship with food and eating
- Learn to keep track of your eating habits.
- Learn to recognise your moods.
- Gain and maintain a healthy weight
- Develop healthy coping strategies
- Identify and change unhealthy habits
- Navigate your relationships
- Improve your mood
- Externalise your eating disorder
Most of the time, treatment for ED includes a mix of different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and psychoeducation.
Family Therapy for Eating Disorders
Disordered eating is a complex mental health illness that often develops during adolescence. Also, some people with eating disorders come from families with dysfunctional behaviour patterns, so family therapy is a typical strategy for treating ED.
Family counselling helps families resolve mental health and relational problems. When one family member suffers, the whole family does. Family therapy helps a suffering family member, examines how family patterns contribute to individual issues and helps family members manage and overcome relationship concerns.
Family therapy can help address and explore family beliefs and scripts, such as perfectionism. For example, research shows that the families of people with ED tend to be strict, perfectionistic, and overprotective.
Family therapy can assist in examining perfectionism-related ideas and scripts. According to research, ED households tend to be rigid, meticulous, and overprotective.
Your family may have had unrealistic expectations and focused too much on external rewards. As a consequence, you were always striving for perfection, especially in terms of your physical appearance. If you have failed to meet the expectations of your family, you may turn to anything that seems to be easily controlled, such as the way you look and dietary restrictions.
Systemic Family Psychotherapy
Systemic family therapy can help:
- Explore the structure of the family, e.g., roles and hierarchies
- Explore family beliefs and their meaning
- Highlight stories of hope and resilience when things for the family have gone well
- Understand family life cycle models
- Work through attachment issues and trauma bonds
- Recognise how your ideas, attitudes, and behaviour have contributed to the problem by increasing self-reflexivity.
- Understand how vital things like culture, race, gender, etc., are in the development of ED.
According to Bowen’s family system theory, individuals are deeply connected to their relationship networks within the family. So, understanding these networks and their internal communication and conflict patterns is essential in resolving individual problems.
Some of the systemic interventions that can be used, depending on your family’s needs, involve:
Structural family therapy
Structural therapy looks at how family members interact with each other instead of focusing on their issues.
Narrative therapy examines the stories we develop and carry throughout our lives. These stories help us understand our behaviour and experiences.
Problems that happen within a couple affect the whole family. Couples therapy helps resolve conflicts and improve communication within a couple.
Transgenerational Family Therapy
Transgenerational family therapy looks at relationships between different generations to help family members understand how communication patterns passed down from generation to generation affect how they interact and deal with problems in the family today.
The strategic therapy approach tries to identify interventions to address the specific problem, such as an eating disorder. These interventions are designed to address the unique problem the family has.
Psychoeducation can help family members understand different aspects of mental health and ED treatment. It also seeks to teach people with eating disorders and their families how they affect the family and how the family influences eating disorders.
ED Therapy at Leone Centre
Our counsellors at Lene Centre can help develop acceptance among family members and build a new story.
Families can seek family therapy either as an independent treatment or along with other types of psychotherapy at Leone Centre. For example, family therapy is often combined with individual treatment to help a whole family deal with the effects of adolescent eating disorders.
Our therapists stay objective and do not take sides. They can assist you by detecting and evaluating behavioural patterns within the family and fostering healthy communication among family members.
All talks in therapy are treated gently, and discussions with your therapist are, of course, always confidential.