Historically, the focus of eating disorders treatment has been on the client. My goal as a therapist is to get them to examine their thoughts and behaviors and how that affects their mood. Although this is an important part of treatment, it is only one part. The other part is involving the family members in this process.
I have heard many parents describe how their child does not take enough responsibility for their disorder and lacks motivation to get better. Although the client should take responsibility for their own recovery, they also need a lot of support during this process. It is imperative that parents of a child, adolescent, and even young adult client be involved in treatment and be prepared to sacrifice time and energy for a good deal of time. It is the parents’ job to provide structure at home and model good recovery language and behavior. And all the latest research backs that up.
Parents should be working on engaging in their own self-care activities to model this type of positive behavior for their children. Whether that means participating in their own therapy, meditating, or going on daily walks, parents need to be doing enough to take care of their own mental and physical health. Children learn through observation.
Most importantly, parents need to trust the therapist they work with and follow the clinical recommendations. Sometimes these are recommendations that make the parent uncomfortable too, especially when they have their own body image and disordered eating issues in play. While the therapist should be empathetic and listen to the struggle the parents and family have, the work of fulfilling the clinical expectations doesn’t change. If the clinicians and parents can work together to connect what is learned in treatment to what is modeled outside of treatment, it is more likely the client will have a faster recovery that can be sustained after treatment ends.
Take full advantage and be a part in your child’s recovery. It’s a model that works.