I'm deeply encouraged by a new study from the Children's Hospital at Westmead, in Sydney, Australia, where in 2002 clinicians set out to reduce the rate of readmissions and relapses they were seeing on the eating disorders ward. They began offering the Maudsley method for families with children and teens being discharged, and saw their readmission rates drop significantly.
They also identified four "practice challenges," aspects of treatment to pay attention, and I think three of them are worth repeating here because they get to the core of the challenges of family-based treatment.
1. Parallel process, or getting families and treatment providers on the same page. "Failure to achieve this tends to replicate the dynamic seen in a split parental team and leads to conflict, confusion and treatment failure," wrote the study's authors.
2. The therapeutic relationship with the family. "The therapists connection with the parents plays a significant role in helping them remain focused and energized for the task at hand. . . . The relationship for single parents with the therapist and supporting team is particularly significant, taking on an important role of emotional support that parallels the support that parents would give each other in an intact family."
3. Difficulty in predicting which families will succeed. "Clinicians need to maintain optimism and faith in a family's capacity, regardless of how they present."
Parents, if you're looking for treatment for your child, I hope you'll keep these important lessons in mind. Don't be afraid to bring them up with your treatment team.