Family Therapy versus Individual Therapy for Adolescent Females with Anorexia Nervosa

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Behavioral family systems therapy (BFST) was compared with ego-oriented individual therapy (EOIT) in a controlled, random-assignment investigation involving 22 young adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Each adolescent and her parents received approximately 16 months of outpatient therapy along with a common medical and dietary regimen. BFST emphasized parental control over eating and weight gain, coupled with cognitive restructuring and problem-solving communication training. EOIT emphasized building ego strength, adolescent autonomy, and insight into the emotional blocks to eating. BFST produced greater change on body-mass index than did EOIT, but both treatments produced comparable improvements on eating attitudes, body shape dissatisfaction, interoceptive awareness, depression/internalizing psychopathology, and eating-related family conflict. The implications of these results for the clinician who treats adolescents with anorexia nervosa are discussed. J Dev Behav Pediatr 15:111–116, 1994. Index terms: anorexia nervosa, adolescents, family therapy, individual therapy.

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