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Family Based Treatment

Childhood and adolescence are times of significant growth and development. Any weight loss, preoccupation with body image, and dietary restriction may suggest an underlying issue.  Concerns about eating disorder behaviours (e.g., Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia) need to be addressed first by a family doctor or pediatrician, experienced in treating eating disorders. Referrals can then be made to a psychologist for Family-Based Treatment (FBT).

FBT is an intensive outpatient treatment where parents play an active and positive role in order to: 

1. Help restore their child’s weight to expected levels based upon their age and height.

2. Hand the control over eating back to the child/adolescent.

3. Help their child reach a healthy sense of identity by talking about how the eating disorder has affected their development and how they will be able to move forward.  


This is achieved in three phases across 20 treatment sessions over a 12-month period. The main difference between FBT and traditional treatments is that parents are seen as a key resource in assisting their child to recover.  FBT believes that the child is not to blame for the eating disorder behaviours, rather these symptoms are mostly outside of the child/adolescent’s control (externalizing the illness).


While the physical and emotional consequences of an eating disorder can be devastating, this approach holds great promise for most children and adolescents who have been ill for a relatively short period of time (i.e. less than 3 years). Family-based treatment can prevent hospitalization and assist the child/adolescent in her/his recovery, provided that parents play an active role in treatment.  Using FBT, young people with eating disorders can regain their health, learn to eat normally again, and develop healthier attitudes about food and their bodies.

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