The Maudsley Approach To Anorexia Nervosa

The Maudsley approach is an empirically supported family-centered therapy for the treatment of anorexia nervosa in teens. Unlike other approaches, it takes the blame for the disorder off the family or the patient.
The Maudsley approach to anorexia nervosa

The Maudsley approach is a family-centered therapy for individuals under the age of 18 who suffer from anorexia nervosa. Christopher Dare and his colleagues at Maudsley Hospital in London developed this method.

The first time anorexia nervosa was diagnosed was more than 125 years ago. However, this condition still confuses patients and their families. It still confuses even doctors to this day. One thing is certain: treatments are generally effective in weight loss.

Despite this, many of them can be harmful to the teen’s family, social and educational life. In addition, weight recovery alone is not enough for recovery, so relapses are common.

The Maudsley approach to anorexia nervosa is a successful and alternative outpatient model to the expensive hospitalization programs available at Maudsley Hospital.

The Maudsley approach to treating anorexia nervosa

Professionals have conducted only a few controlled clinical trials to investigate effective outpatient treatments for teens with anorexia nervosa.

Although the research is not extensive, recently published reports on the treatment of anorexia nervosa in adolescents are very encouraging about the efficacy of the Maudsley approach.

After reviewing all the research from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England, doctors concluded that all health services should prioritize family-oriented therapies when it comes to this condition.

Therefore, the Maudsley approach appears to be an excellent treatment option. Many books explain what this therapy entails. In addition, the Maudsley approach aims to correct the misappropriation of blame for the patient’s illness.

It tries to show the parents and the patient that they are not to blame for the occurrence of this disease. Neither is responsible for it. Therefore, this method follows a theoretically agnostic approach to the etiology of anorexia.

Phases of the Maudsley Approach

The Maudsley approach goes through three clearly defined phases. The patient and his or her family perform these phases within 15-20 treatment sessions over a period of approximately 12 months.

Phase I: Weight Recovery

In phase I, also called the weight recovery phase, the therapist focuses on the dangers of severe malnutrition in anorexia nervosa. It treats symptoms such as:

  • hypothermia
  • changes in growth hormones
  • heart disorders
  • cognitive and emotional changes

During this phase, the professional evaluates the patient’s typical familial interaction pattern and his or her eating habits.

The therapist will make every effort to assist parents in their concerted effort to restore their child’s weight. Most of this first phase consists of training parents to be successful in weight recovery.

Restructuring the teen’s relationship with their siblings or peers is also very important. This will help them form stronger, more age-appropriate relationships instead of being “involved” in a simple parenting relationship.

The Maudsley approach to anorexia nervosa

Phase II: Restoring Patient Diet Control

Phase II of treatment focuses on encouraging parents to help their child gain more control over food. Symptoms are still the main point of discussion between the therapist and the family. Despite this , the therapist gradually encourages weight gain.

In addition, during this phase it is important to address any other general problems or difficulties in the family relationship. Everyone involved is working together to address all those concerns that the family had to put off. The professional mainly analyzes the effect that some of those problems have had on the task of gaining weight.

Phase III: achieving a healthy identity

Phase III begins when the patient stops self-starvation first and second when the patient can maintain his or her weight above 95% of ideal weight.

The focus of treatment begins to change. Now begins the analysis of the impact that anorexia nervosa has had on the individual. Through this study, the teen begins to realize a healthy identity. This implies a review of the central issues of adolescence, as well as support for greater patient autonomy.

From now on, research professionals are working to develop appropriate parental boundaries and help them reorganize their lives to give their child a proper independence.

Teen with anorexia nervosa in therapy

The promise of the Maudsley approach

In summary, this approach holds promise for most teens who are relatively short-term sick (about less than three years). This family treatment can avoid hospitalization and aid the teens in their recovery as it considers the patient’s parents as a resource that should play an active role in the treatment. 

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