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Family-based treatment (FBT), sometimes referred to as Maudsley Family Therapy, is a family systems therapy approach to treatment of adolescents with anorexia nervosa. It is effective and superior to comparison individual therapies such as CBT and adolescent-focused therapy (AFT). FBT is a modification of the family therapy developed by Minuchin, who emphasized the family's contribution to the development of an eating disorder. According to his theoretical model, apsychosomatic family involves rigidity, enmeshment, overinvolvement and conflict avoidance and contributes to symptoms in a predisposed adolescent. FBT prioritizes weight restoration before general adolescent/family issues.


  • FBT is an outpatient form of family therapy that consists of 10 to 20 family meetings over a 6- to 12-month treatment course.
  • FBT empowers parents to take charge of the weight restoration of their child by taking action to disrupt symptoms of self-starvation and overexercise. This is followed by handing control over eating back to the adolescent.
  • Once the child's eating improves and weight is restored, the treatment briefly focuses on developmental issues of adolescence.

There is evidence that this approach is both highly efficient and likely decreases the need for hospitalization.


Lock, J. Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Eating Disorders. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2015;54(5):412–425

Lock J, et. al. A randomized clinical trial comparing family based treatment to adolescent focused individual therapy for adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67:1025-1032.

Eisler I. The empirical and theoretical base of family therapy and multiple family day therapy for adolescent anorexia nervosa. J Fam Ther. 2005;27:104-131.