Q & A: Help for Family Members

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
July/August 2008 Volume 19, Number 4
©2008 Gürze Books

Q: Although we all know that involving families in the treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) is essential, the reality is that resources to help families deal competently with the patients are very limited and even unavailable in many areas. Besides giving family members books to read on how to interact with their patient-relatives, are there any new ways to help these families? ( L.T., Sacramento, CA)

A: The need for more therapists trained to assist families in the use of contemporary family treatment models for AN is clearly pressing. To fill the gaps, some researchers are starting to think about distance-training and distance coaching for families. Although this work is still in the pilot stage, early results are promising. For example, researchers in London have found high acceptability and satisfaction among family members to whom they distributed a set of five training DVDs supplemented by telephone coaching sessions. The DVDs focus on the interpersonal impact of eating disorders; supported eating; communication skills and cycle of change; problematic behaviors; and analyzing behaviors. The telephone coaching asks the “carers” about whether they’ve actually watched the tapes, had difficulties, required clarification, what they’ve taken from the tapes, and whether they’ve been able to implement any of the suggested strategies. Based on initial feedback, they’re refining this “package” to see if this intervention can actually reduce distress and depression scores among the “carers” and result in long-term improvements in their relationships with patients (Int J Eating Disord 41:318, 2008).


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