Saturday, January 26, 2008

Walt Kaye, M.D., believes in families

Dr. Kaye, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Eating Disorders Program at University of California-San Diego, is leading a team in one of the largest studies on eating disorders ever done. The study will include seven sites around the world and will compare two kinds of family therapy to explore the question of which kind of family therapy is best for which families.

Note to eating disorders therapists and programs: The question in this study isn't whether families should be part of e.d. recovery. It's how.

Patients will be assigned to one of two treatment types: systemic family therapy, which looks to improve relationships within the family as a means to recovery, and family-based treatment, also known as the Maudsley approach, which empowers the family to help the child recover.

One of the biggest perceived obstacles to Maudsley treatment is the notion that families have to be "perfect" in order to implement it. Well, that and the traditional notion that families cause eating disorders in the first place, and so cannot possibly be part of the solution.

The trouble is, traditional treatments stink. They condemn sufferers to years of semi-starvation, partial recovery, and inevitable relapse. So far, the Maudsley approach is the single most effective treatment for teens, with five-year recovery rates between 80 and 90 percent.

If a better treatment came along, I'd be the first to do the happy dance. What I can't stand is people who shoot down the notion of families being involved in treatment on general principle, or because it's always been done that way, or because they've always done it differently and can't make the leap to a new paradigm.

Children deserve the best treatment out there. Research shows that if someone with anorexia is ill for less than three years and then recovers, her chances of a lifetime free of this devastating illness are excellent. But those who've been chronically ill for 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, are much less likely to ever really recover.

And that's simply wrong. Especially when there are tools that can help--like the family.

Anyone who's interested in being part of the UC-San Diego trial can call 858-366-2525 or e-mail

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