Imagine a therapy that focuses not just on the individual struggling with an eating disorder, but also on their entire family unit. This type of therapy exists, and it’s called Family-Based Treatment (FBT).

FBT, also known as the Maudsley approach, originated in the 1980s as a solution to address the rising number of adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Rather than placing the sole responsibility for recovery on the individual, FBT recognizes the important role that family members play in supporting their loved one’s journey to recovery. In fact, research has shown that FBT is one of the most effective treatments for adolescents with anorexia, with 75-90% of patients showing significant improvements.

Family-Based Treatment: An Effective Therapy for Eating Disorders

Family-Based Treatment (FBT), also known as the Maudsley Approach, is a highly effective therapy for the treatment of eating disorders, particularly in adolescents. This evidence-based treatment approach involves actively involving the family in the treatment process to help the individual overcome their eating disorder. FBT focuses on restoring the individual’s weight, normalizing their eating behaviors, and rebuilding their relationship with food and their body.

FBT is considered the gold standard in the treatment of anorexia nervosa and has shown promising results for bulimia nervosa and other specified feeding or eating disorders. This therapy not only helps the individual recover physically but also addresses the psychological, social, and emotional aspects of the eating disorder.

In this article, we will explore the key components of Family-Based Treatment and how it can benefit individuals with eating disorders.

1. Understanding Family-Based Treatment (FBT)

Family-Based Treatment (FBT) is a therapeutic approach specifically designed for the treatment of eating disorders, primarily in children and adolescents. It was first developed at the Maudsley Hospital in London and has since gained recognition as a highly effective treatment option.

The central premise of FBT is that the family plays a critical role in the recovery process. Instead of solely focusing on the individual with the eating disorder, FBT involves the entire family in the treatment. The approach recognizes that families have the power to support and facilitate the individual’s recovery.

FBT is typically divided into three phases, with each phase having specific goals and objectives. The first phase focuses on restoring the individual’s weight, the second phase transitions the control of eating back to the individual, and the third phase addresses the psychological and emotional aspects of the eating disorder.

2. The Role of the Family in FBT

In FBT, the family becomes an integral part of the treatment team and is actively involved in the therapeutic process. The family takes on the responsibility of refeeding the individual, monitoring their meals, and providing emotional support throughout the recovery journey.

The role of the family is to provide a secure and nurturing environment for the individual. They work together with a trained therapist to address the underlying issues contributing to the eating disorder and help the individual develop healthier attitudes towards food and body image.

By actively involving the family, FBT aims to empower them to take an active stance against the eating disorder and support the individual in their path to recovery. This collaborative approach has been shown to be highly effective in achieving positive treatment outcomes.

3. The Three Phases of FBT

FBT is typically divided into three distinct phases, each with specific objectives. These phases serve as a roadmap for the treatment process and help guide both the family and the therapist.

Phase 1: Weight Restoration

The first phase of FBT focuses on restoring the individual’s weight to a healthy level. During this phase, families take responsibility for ensuring the individual is adequately nourished. This involves closely monitored mealtimes, meal planning, and providing support during any resistance or reluctance towards meals.

Medical professionals closely supervise this phase to ensure the individual is receiving the required nutrition for their physical recovery. Weight restoration is crucial in addressing the physiological effects of the eating disorder and stabilizing the individual’s health.

The family’s role in this phase is to support the individual in overcoming their fear and resistance towards weight gain. They provide encouragement, empathy, and reassurance, emphasizing the importance of nutrition and the restoration of physical health.

Phase 2: Transition of Control

In the second phase of FBT, the focus shifts towards gradually reintroducing the individual’s autonomy and control over their eating behaviors. The family’s role is to support and guide the individual through this transition without compromising their recovery.

Meal planning and decision making are gradually transferred to the individual, allowing them to regain a sense of agency over their food choices. The family continues to provide support and reinforcement, reinforcing the progress made during the weight restoration phase.

This phase helps the individual develop skills and coping strategies to manage their eating disorder independently. The family provides ongoing support, helping the individual navigate challenges and providing reassurance throughout this process.

Phase 3: Addressing Psychological Aspects

The third phase of FBT focuses on addressing the psychological and emotional aspects of the eating disorder. This phase aims to help the individual develop a healthier relationship with food, body image, and their self-esteem.

The family, alongside the therapist, assists the individual in exploring the underlying factors contributing to the development and maintenance of the eating disorder. They work together to identify triggers, develop coping strategies, and promote positive body image.

This phase may involve individual therapy or support groups to address any residual psychological issues. The family continues to provide ongoing support and encouragement, reinforcing the progress made during the previous phases and ensuring the individual’s sustained recovery.

4. The Effectiveness of FBT

Research has consistently shown that Family-Based Treatment (FBT) is highly effective in the treatment of eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa. It has been proven to be more successful than traditional therapy approaches, such as individual therapy or inpatient treatment.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that adolescents who received FBT were more likely to achieve full remission from anorexia nervosa compared to those who received individual therapy. FBT has also shown positive outcomes for other specified feeding or eating disorders, including bulimia nervosa.

The active involvement of the family in the treatment process makes FBT a powerful therapeutic intervention. By addressing the eating disorder within the family system, FBT helps create a supportive environment that promotes lasting recovery.


Family-Based Treatment (FBT) has revolutionized the field of eating disorder treatment by recognizing the importance of involving the family in the recovery process. It offers a comprehensive and evidence-based approach that addresses not only the physical symptoms of the eating disorder but also the psychological and emotional aspects.

By actively involving the family, FBT empowers them to support their loved one’s recovery and promotes a healthier family dynamic. This collaborative approach has proven to be highly effective in achieving positive treatment outcomes and long-term recovery.

Additional Resources

  • NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Helpline: 1-800-931-2237
  • NEDA Helpline Chat:
  • NEDA Helpline Text: 741741 (United States)
  • ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) Helpline: 630-577-1330

Key Takeaways: FBT Therapy

FBT therapy, or Family-Based Treatment, is an effective approach for treating eating disorders in adolescents.

  1. FBT therapy involves the active involvement of the family in the treatment process.
  2. It focuses on empowering parents to take charge of their child’s restoration to a healthy weight.
  3. FBT therapy helps to address the psychological and physical aspects of eating disorders.
  4. The therapy aims to strengthen family relationships and promote communication and support.
  5. FBT therapy is evidence-based and has shown promising results in helping individuals overcome eating disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions related to FBT Therapy.

1. How does FBT therapy work?

FBT therapy, also known as Family-Based Treatment, is a type of therapy used to treat individuals, typically adolescents, with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. It involves active involvement and support from the patient’s family members. The therapy is divided into three phases.

In the first phase, parents take control of food and eating, closely supervising meals and ensuring that the patient consumes an adequate amount of food. The second phase focuses on handing control back to the patient, gradually increasing their independence and responsibility for food choices and eating. The final phase involves the family working on improving relationships and developing healthier patterns of communication and support.

2. What are the benefits of FBT therapy?

FBT therapy has several benefits for individuals with eating disorders and their families. It has been found to be effective in achieving weight restoration, reducing eating disorder behaviors, and improving overall psychological well-being. The therapy also helps to improve family relationships, as it focuses on enhancing communication, problem-solving skills, and support within the family unit.

Moreover, FBT therapy empowers parents or caregivers by providing them with tools and strategies to support their child’s recovery. It encourages active participation from the family members and helps them develop a strong support system for the patient.

3. Is FBT therapy suitable for all individuals with eating disorders?

FBT therapy is primarily designed for adolescents with anorexia nervosa. However, it has also shown promising results in treating other eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). It is essential to consult with a professional, such as an eating disorder specialist or therapist, to determine the most appropriate treatment approach for an individual based on their specific needs and circumstances.

The therapist will assess various factors, including the severity and duration of the eating disorder, the individual’s age and developmental stage, and the availability of family support, to determine if FBT therapy is suitable.

4. How long does FBT therapy usually last?

The duration of FBT therapy can vary depending on the individual’s progress and specific situation. Generally, FBT therapy lasts for around six to 12 months, with sessions typically held on a weekly basis at the beginning. As the therapy progresses, the frequency of sessions may decrease to biweekly or monthly.

It is important to remember that eating disorders are complex and recovery takes time. The length of therapy may be adjusted based on the individual’s response to treatment and the goals set in each phase of FBT therapy.

5. What is the success rate of FBT therapy?

The success rate of FBT therapy is encouraging, with research studies showing positive outcomes for many individuals with eating disorders. Studies have demonstrated that FBT therapy leads to weight restoration, reduction in eating disorder symptoms, and improved psychological well-being in a significant number of cases.

However, it is important to note that individual outcomes may vary. The success of FBT therapy depends on various factors, including the individual’s commitment to treatment, the severity and duration of the eating disorder, and the level of family support and involvement. It is crucial to work closely with a qualified therapist or healthcare professional to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

In conclusion, Family-Based Treatment (FBT) is a highly effective therapy for adolescents with eating disorders. FBT involves the entire family in the treatment process, helping to create a supportive and nurturing environment for recovery.

FBT empowers parents to take an active role in their child’s recovery, teaching them essential skills to manage eating disorder behaviors and promote healthy eating habits. By addressing the underlying family dynamics, FBT aims to improve communication and strengthen relationships within the family.