Just One More Bite: A Qualitative Analysis of the Family Meal in Family-based Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

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The family meal is an integral component of Maudsley family-based treatment for anorexia nervosa. The aim of this study was to determine whether there are different types of family meal, as suggested in the treatment manual, and whether within session processes differ according to meal type.


Thirty video-recorded family meal sessions from a randomised controlled trial were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis.


Analyses revealed two types of family meal. In the first, the patient ate one mouthful more than they were willing to eat. This meal type was characterised by processes that were consistent with the Maudsley model. In the second, the patient ate what was asked of them with little to no difficulty. Therapist and family avoidance differentiated this meal type from the first.


The current findings, along with the existing theory, suggest that avoidance may have reduced the therapeutic impact of the meal for many families. Strategies to challenge therapist and family avoidance are suggested. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

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