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David Baxter

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Family-Based Treatment Found Effective in Bulimia Study
Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A study led by Dr. Daniel Le Grange, director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of Chicago, has concluded that family-based treatment for bulimia nervosa is superior to more traditional therapies. Dr. Le Grange and his team arrived at this position after analyzing results collected between April 2001 and June 2006 from 80 teenage subjects who received outpatient treatment for bulimia. Half of the study's subjects underwent treatment that utilized a version of the Maudsley Approach, which itself is based on cognitive behavioral therapy with a strong emphasis on familial involvement, while the other half was given a treatment course that more closely followed a traditional supportive psychotherapy model.

Measurements of progress were taken at several points in the study, and at every point, family-based treatment (FBT) outperformed supportive psychotherapy treatment (SPT). In almost all cases, FBT was at least twice as successful at achieving positive results?39% of those receiving FBT were in remission when measured post-treatment, while only 18% of the SPT group achieved remission.

The research team mentioned several potential mitigating factors in their write-up, but on the whole found the results to hold enormous promise for the future of eating disorder treatment. For Dr. Le Grange, these results are a clear indication of the role that parents have to play in the treatment of eating disorders. A university press release quoted him as saying:

"Parents are in a unique position to help their adolescents, yet treatment typically excludes them from the process. Now we have the evidence that we need to bring them back in."

"For years parents have been left out of the treatment process," Le Grange said. They often feel guilty about intervening."But what parent would step aside and play a minimal role in treatment if their child was diagnosed with cancer? Nor should they if a child has an eating disorder. Eating disorders pose serious health hazards."​
Eating disorders like bulimia are particularly pernicious and often extremely physically damaging. Treatment isn't just about leading a full and healthy life, but also about not allowing an individual to do lasting damage to their body. Le Grange's work points to a future where individually tailored cognitive behavioral programs are combined with individual and family therapies to achieve drastically improved results. We've previously discussed anecdotal evidence of the Maudsley Approach's value in treating disordered eating situations, but with this new research putting actual numbers on the benefits, there is hope that this may become a more readily available option for those in need.
 

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