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Eat Weight Disord. 2008 Dec;13(4):157-70.

Family therapy in the treatment of adolescent anorexia nervosa: current research evidence and its therapeutic implications.

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  • 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris, France.


From the outset, the systemic and family movement has expressed an interest in eating disorders, more specifically anorexia nervosa, establishing causal links between family functioning and aetiology and advocating family therapy as the treatment of choice for this disorder. Because of high consistency between its explanatory and therapeutic dimensions, this model continues to dominate our conceptualizations and clinical practice, in spite of a lack of empirical support. This article summarizes present empirical evidence concerning both family functioning (explanatory dimension) and the effectiveness of family therapy (therapeutic dimension) in anorexia nervosa, and describes resulting changes in theoretical and clinical perspectives. A model of evidence-based family therapy is presented and several unresolved issues are raised. Overall, this overview of the literature supports the use of therapeutic models that are more flexible and normative, less guilt-inducing, more diversified (eclectic and integrative), and more rooted in the empirical literature.

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