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Little is known about the outcome of involving families in the treatment of adults with anorexia nervosa. Carers of people with anorexia nervosa experience significant levels of distress. This may contribute to unhelpful behaviours which maintain the illness.To evaluate the effectiveness and acceptability of family workshops with educational and skills-based components as compared to individual family work.An exploratory randomised controlled trial of two forms of family intervention was conducted for inpatients with anorexia nervosa (n = 48) and their family members on a specialised unit for adults.In both groups, there was an improvement in patients' BMI and a reduction in carers' distress. There were no differences between groups.Preliminary findings suggest that workshop-based intervention with two families might be as effective as an individually focused family intervention. This may offer a more cost-effective intervention for this treatment-resistant group. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.