Family Therapy for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and other related disorders) are acknowledged to be becoming more common and affect many people, especially adolescents and young adults. They are complex illnesses involving a combination of biological and psychological symptoms and problems.

The idea of involving the family in treatment dates from the 1970s and was initially based on the idea that families in some way caused the development of anorexia nervosa. However, it is now accepted that this is not so and now family interventions are best viewed as treatments that mobilise family resources. Many of the sufferers live with their family, even those who are officially ‘adults’ (over 18s) are often based at home.

So families are intimately involved with treatment and recovery, whether this be visiting a patient in hospital, making meals at home or being part of the family around the dinner table.

How I work

I work to support weight restoration in collaboration with my colleagues (Consultant Psychiatrists, Dieticians and Individual Psychotherapists) and to emphasise the importance for both patients and their close family members of learning how to manage their emotions in healthy ways.

Alongside the many joys in life, all of us throughout our lives, have to deal with emotional problems and difficulties. These might be major life events such as a death of a relative, or something like the breakdown of a friendship at school. Eating Disorders offer many patients a very dangerous short cut to managing their emotions by suppressing them, so a large part of my work involves helping my patients to learn and explore healthy ways of processing emotions and thereby helping the sufferer to manage without the eating disorder.

Family Therapy is ideal for looking at patterns in families and accessing solutions to recurring problems, as well as allowing all family members to have a voice and explain their perspective, and in this way to contribute to the recovery of the patient.

Irene Samuel
Tel. 07956 448 575


The Priory Hospital
Priory Lane
London SW15 5JJ


© Irene Samuel