Parents' Experiences of Family Therapy for Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa

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Williams, Lauren T
Wood, Cath
Plath, Debbie
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This study examined parents’ experiences of family-based interventions for the treatment of adolescents with anorexia nervosa (AN). Nine parents whose child’s weight had reached the healthy weight range post-treatment were interviewed about their experiences of parenting a child with AN in either manualised family-based therapy (FBT) (n = 6) or non-manualised family systematic interventions (n = 3). The interviews were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Findings draw attention to the impact of AN on the whole family, the gatekeeping role of health professionals in accessing support and treatment, the value of externalisation, the prime importance of the therapeutic alliance between parents and clinicians, and the importance of tailoring treatment to the unique circumstances, values, and culture of each family. IMPLICATIONS Practitioners should be alert to the feelings of shock, guilt, and responsibility felt by parents of a child with anorexia nervosa and recognise the challenges faced by parents in accessing treatment and responding to their child’s behaviour, alongside the demands of family, work, and other social roles. The quality of the parent–practitioner therapeutic relationship influences parental perceptions of support and of the effectiveness of treatment. Regardless of the treatment model, parents respond well to therapists who express empathy, pay attention to building trust, respect, and activate the family’s unique circumstances and values, offer support, explain the nature and purpose of the treatment, and provide feedback. From the parent perspective, practitioners are more effective if they clarify parents’ value and belief systems and use these to engage parents with the treatment process.

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Australian Social Work
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Specialist studies in education
Policy and administration
Social work
Social Sciences
Anorexia Nervosa
Family-based Therapy
Manualised FBT
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Williams, LT; Wood, C; Plath, D, Parents' Experiences of Family Therapy for Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa, Australian Social Work, 2020