Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Maudsley Approach to Anorexia

Last year my husband and I spent most of a year refeeding our older daughter, who was diagnosed with anorexia. I wrote an essay about our experiences, which will be published in the New York Times Magazine tomorrow, 11/26/06.

The approach we used is called the Maudsley approach. It was developed at the Maudsley Hospital in London in the 1980s, and is very successful at helping teens with anorexia (though I know of families who have used it to help young adults in their 20s too) recover. It's not easy, but then nothing about this disease is easy, especially for the person who suffers from it.

If you're interested in finding out more about the Maudsley approach, visit, a website run by parent volunteers. There's a lot of great information on the site, including a basic introduction to Maudsley and a couple of personal stories from families who have used it. There's also a link to an online parents forum, which has been invaluable to me and my family as we have gone through this experience.

Another great site is, which is run by Laura Collins. Collins wrote a book about how her family helped their daughter recover through Maudsley; I recommend it highly. Her book of the same name is available on Amazon.

I've begun to do some coaching and guidance for families who are going through this re-feeding process. If you're interested in finding out more about coaching, or just want to get in touch for whatever reason, please e-mail me at


Anonymous said...

From one Maudsley parent to another thank you for telling your story. Your girl sounds so much like my own dear daughter who recovered with family-based treatment two years ago. What a gift of hope you have given families struggling with this awful disease.
With thanks and admiration,
Another Maudsley Mom

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your article in the ny times today. I have been struggling with anorexia for 12 years (I am 27) and I wish that my family had known about the maudsley approach - it sounds so much more hopeful than the treatments I went through. This disease is incredibly frightening and you are so right to name it a demon . . . so few people understand the power of "it."

Thank you for writing and fighting for all of us.

Harriet said...

Thanks to both of *you* for sharing your stories. One of the things I hate most about this disease is the stigma that goes along with it, and the secrecy that leads to. If I had one wish it would be that anorexia was looked at as a disease like pneumonia or asthma--just a bum break, not something you bring on yourself or your child through wrong thinking or behavior.

The more we talk about it, the weaker the stigma and secrecy get. Keep telling your stories. And for the anorexic who wrote above, you know, I have heard stories of 20-somethings being treated with Maudsley. Is there a parent who could help you with it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your success story using the Maudsley Approach. My daughter is 15 and we have been using this for 6 months. I have used the exact words you did to describe this horrible disease, "demon" and "spewing venom". There is no other way to describe it. I have never seen such behavior out of a person and I know it's the AN talking not my daughter. I long to rescue her too as you did your daughter. Thankfully Maudsley is a tool to do just that. One question I have though is the last few pounds seem to be hard. Did you experience the same with your daughter? We've been playing with 2-3 pounds up and down for about 3 months. Any tips??

Harriet said...

I think the last few pounds are genuinely difficult for many families. Just keep going and don't let up. It's tempting to back off a little because your child is so close. But we found that it was really the last few pounds that made all the difference mentally for our daughter.

My thoughts are with you.

Anonymous said...

After comming across your article in the NY Times magazine, I have done a lot of reading on the Maudsley approach. I wanted to tell you that I think it's so wonderful that you're spreading awareness like this. I was anorexic for about a year when I was 17. I'm 23 now (and still fully recovered), but I simply could not forgive myself for the way I acted then, for abusing my body the way I did, and most of all, for hurting my family. After reading your article and others on Maudsley, I now understand that my behavior was a result of the awful effects of self imposed starvation and was both out of character and beyond my control. I no longer see Anorexia as a horrible choice that I made. I now see the disease in a new light, and I finally have started to make peace with my past. Mental illness is so terribly misunderstood, especially in adolescents, and I give you so much credit for eschewing shame and stigma and speaking out like this. Your daughters are lucky to have such an enlightened and brave mother. Best wishes to you and your family.

Harriet said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. I'm *so* glad you are recovered and that you understand that anorexia was not your fault or your choice. I wish you continued health, strength, and happiness.