When most people think of interventions, they have an example in their minds from a television show, most often related to someone with a substance use disorder. Although interventions are used frequently to help convince persons with addictions to begin treatment, it is my belief (thanks to my experience tracking and staffing cases for a large eating disorder organization) that it is quite rare for people with eating disorders to have a formal intervention. This realization, then, begs the questions: Can an intervention be done for patients with eating disorders? And if so, why are they not used more frequently?
Below, I discuss some points to consider when answering these questions:
First, we must look at the difference in temperament and presentation of eating disorders versus substance use disorder.
Persons with eating disorders and their families do not have the same access to support groups as addictions.
Eating disorder treatment programs may require specialized admission procedures.
With mindfulness to the considerations above, I believe that persons struggling with eating disorders can benefit from intervention services. It is imperative for the family network to have support from others to help navigate the road to recovery while their loved one is in treatment and once they return home.
If you are interested in learning more about eating disorder interventions, please visit my website (EatingDisorderIntervention.com) and reach out to me via my contact page. I offer free, 30-minute consultations to new clients.
My Child is an Adult with an Eating Disorder, Addiction or Mental Health Challenge—Should I be Involved in Their Treatment?
Most parents of children who are now adults will tell you that parenting doesn’t magically stop at age 18. We are connected to our children and loved ones through our neurobiology throughout our lives. As the saying goes in Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT), developed by Adele Lafrance and Joanne Dolhanty “once connected, always affected”.
It is completely normal for us to hold in one hand the desire to help our loved ones when they are struggling and in the other hand a desire to see them work through their problems and gain independence. However, when mental health challenges such as eating disorders, addictions and mood disorders start to affect areas of daily functioning, relationships, ability to engage in school or work and safety is at risk, the person affected needs help and support to get back on track. Parents and other caregivers such as partners, spouses, extended family and friends have the neurobiological power to be very effective healing agents of change, even more so than clinicians!
Plus, family involvement and support is endorsed by national organizations such as The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
So why do we question our involvement?
As a parent who has been there and as a clinician who has seen it in action, I can say that in general we question ourselves because we have difficulty seeing how our efforts may be helpful. EFFT describes this as the experience of caregiver burden. The feeling of burden does not depend on how much time you spend on the situation or the resources you have committed to it, rather it is the sense that what you have to offer isn’t helping, the situation isn’t changing or the worry that you may make it worse. It can show up in all kinds of ways. For example, here are a few more common thoughts I’ve heard parents and caregivers express:
All these thoughts and more may be true. And, with EFFT as our guide, we also know that:
What can I do to be involved?
[i] Lafrance, A., Henderson, K. A., & Mayman, S. (2020). Emotion-focused family therapy: A transdiagnostic model for caregiver-focused interventions. American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000166-000