Anorexia-nervosa-focused family therapy (FT-AN)

Strong evidence – there is lots of high-quality evidence that some young people find this treatment option helpful.

Anorexia-nervosa-focused family therapy (FT-AN) involves working with you and your parents or carers to help you understand how the anorexia is affecting you. FT-AN will also help your parents or carers to support you with managing eating and weight restoration at home. Unlike other types of family therapy, the focus is on managing the effects of anorexia rather than on more general relationship issues or problems.

FT-AN usually involves 18-20 sessions over 1 year, with reviews after the first month and then every three months. This will help your professional to figure out how regular your sessions should be and how long your treatment should last. Sessions are usually about 60-90 minutes and tend to be weekly in the beginning, but can then be more spaced out.

Your professional might also offer you additional sessions on your own and offer support to your other family members to help them cope with any distress related to your eating disorder. If you are having therapy on your own, your professional should offer your parents or carers their own support if they need it.

FT-AN has different stages. How long each one lasts will be different depending on what you need:

  • at the beginning your professional will focus on helping your parents or carers to support you with eating and managing your weight restoration
  • in the second stage your professional will help you to manage your eating more independently
  • the third stage will then focus on supporting you to become more independent and knowing how to stay well

FT-AN would usually involve just your family, but in some areas you might be offered FT-AN in a group with other families. These groups are made up of 4-8 families who meet together with a team of therapists for ‘workshop days’. These are usually held in blocks of three days and include some of the same techniques as single family FT-AN, but are usually more intensive.

If you have been admitted to a day centre or to hospital then family therapy will usually be part of your treatment.

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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