Family Involvement in the Treatment of Eating Disorders | Alsana
 In Alsana Events, Eating Disorders, Family Program, Webinars

Family Involvement in the Treatment of Eating Disorders

A network of family and supportive others is essential for those in eating disorder recovery.

While families are not to blame for disordered eating behavior, biological and chosen families do play an essential role in making lasting recovery possible. Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) provides a supportive framework for activating the healing qualities of relationship in eating disorder recovery. 

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On May 12, 9 AM / PT, please join Caroline Nichols, LICSW, CEDS-s for a FREE CE Webinar: The Missing Piece

Defining the Challenge

Have you ever heard the saying: You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick? It’s so true, and I think it’s especially true for people with eating disorders.

However, being honest and acknowledging that environmental and relational factors may exacerbate disordered relationships with food isn’t the same as casting blame on family members and supportive others.

As members of a loved one’s support network, it is vital to remember that recovery is not helped by blame or shame but through accountability and loving persistence. We heal, we learn, we move forward, and we don’t look back.

Family involvement has long been identified as a buffer against relapse from an eating disorder after the client leaves treatment. Historically, family members have been taught to support their loved one’s recovery with behavioral coaching. While this is a valuable skill, it doesn’t always prepare family members to most effectively manage the emotional response their loved one’s may experience.

To close this gap, Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) was developed.


What is EFFT?

At Alsana, we believe that recovery happens in relationships, and EFFT is in alignment with this fundamental philosophy. EFFT is integrative psychotherapy designed to support and empower caregivers to increase their role in their loved one’s recovery from mental health issues, including eating disorders. By so doing, family members and supportive others become active participants-rather than passive observers- in the healing process, helping to repair relational injuries, interrupt symptomatic behavior in a compassionate way, and processing underlying emotions.



  • It is effective and supports a return to a recovery mindset.
  • Is compassionate
  • Works with brain science and strengthens interpersonal relationships
  • It helps us understand our own typical responses and triggers, allowing us to leverage them and manage them more effectively.
  • It provides a framework for communication in relationships.

It can also be integrated into existing treatment models at varying levels of care, which is helpful not only for families but for the clinical members of one’s support network/treatment team. In that way, EFFT not only fosters healthy relational growth between family members but between supportive loved ones and treatment teams; the more we support one another, the more support will be available for those in recovery.

Two young woman enjoying a meal
Family and Supportive Others are key in eating disorder recovery.

Supportive Loved Ones Make Life After Disordered Eating Possible!

Successful recovery from an eating disorder is a team effort, no doubt. EFFT is one comprehensive method for growing and nourishing an individual’s support network by empowering those in their inner circle to provide healing support and relational growth.

We often talk about how eating disorders thrive in isolation but make no mistake: being in isolation is not the same as being alone. It is entirely possible to feel completely isolated and disconnected even when there are people around. We know this because we’ve all seen it. By practicing the skills taught in EFFT, we build bridges to those in recovery and remind them that they do not have to go through this alone.


Please Join Me for a Free Webinar: The Missing Piece

Eating disorders affect the entire family, but we know families and caregivers are often overlooked during the treatment process. When their loved ones leave treatment, family members and supportive others may feel unprepared for how to create a safe space for lasting recovery and continued healing. On May 12, 9 AM / PT, I will be presenting The Missing Piece: Family Involvement in the Comprehensive Treatment of Eating Disorders.

The goal of the presentation is to equip and empower clinicians to work with families of individuals with eating disorders with competence, confidence, and compassion. It will:

  • provide a framework for clinicians working with families of clients with eating disorders from an Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) perspective
  • provide an overview of EFFT along with concrete ways to identify barriers and caregiver traps that prevent family members from supporting and connecting with their loved one.
  • Explore experiential interventions in which clinicians will practice skills learned and identify their own biases and blocks towards working with family members and/or supportive others.

Learning Objectives and Additional Details:

  • Attendees will describe the foundation of Emotion Focused Family Therapy as a framework for providing support to family members and supportive others of loved ones with eating disorders.
  • Attendees will identify barriers and caregiver traps in providing support to loved ones with eating disorders.
  • Attendees will demonstrate skills in validation and providing emotional and practical support to loved ones with eating disorders.
  • 5 CE hours are being offered
  • Cost: Free

(I hope you can make it! If you can’t make it but want the webinar recording to view at a time more convenient for you, register for the webinar and we’ll email you the recording afterwards.)

Caroline Nichols, LICSW, CEDS-s
Caroline Nichols, LICSW, CEDS-s
About the Author Caroline Nichols, LICSW, CEDS
Regional Director of Compliance and Director of Family Programs
As the Regional Director of Compliance and Director of Family Programs, Caroline was inspired to join Alsana because of our adaptive and personalized approach to the treatment of each individual client. She also loves working with amazing, dedicated professionals and bearing witness to the small “aha” moments that clients experience during the course of their recovery. Caroline has previous experience working with individuals with eating disorders at the residential and partial hospitalization levels of care…

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