Q & A: Internet Help for Families

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
September/October 2011 Volume 22, Number 5
©2011 Gürze Books

Q: I know that internet-based techniques have been found to be helpful for patients with eating disorders. Is anything available on the Internet to help their families?

A: Thankfully, a growing number of internet resources are available not only for patients but for their families as well. And they’re now proven to be of benefit. A recent randomized controlled trial of an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills package for caregivers of people with anorexia nervosa compared to usual support from a patient and care-giver organization in the UK showed that those receiving the CBT intervention showed greater reductions in anxiety and depression at post-treatment and follow-up, although not in other outcome measures (Psychol Med, published online, May 20, 2011; DOI: 10.1017/S0033291711000766).

Other studies by this group have shown that what families most appreciate is learning structured, skills-based interventions. At the same time, putting families of patients with eating disorders in touch with one another can be beneficial for helping to reduce a sense of blame and isolation, as well as for facilitating skills-based learning (Eur Eat Disord Rev, published online Jul 6, 2011; doi: 10.1002/erv.1077). An online toolkit for caregivers developed by this group can be accessed here. Among many other excellent sources, two sites that you’ll want to know about, explore and share with families wanting to get help and connections online are hosted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and by the Eating Disorders Center at the University of California, San Diego.

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