Anorexia Treatment Using the Maudsley Method

Butterfly on Flower

The Maudsley Method is proven effective in treating children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Researchers are attempting to determine if Maudsley adaptations do the same.

The Maudsley Method, also known as Family-Based Treatment (FBT) has gained notoriety as one of the foremost methods of eating disorder treatment for children and adolescents.

This modality emphasizes the active and positive role that family members can take in their loved one’s treatment.

Originally developed in 1985, the Maudsley Method has morphed from a treatment solely intended for children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa to methods specific to bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and even catering to adults with MANTRA (Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults).

Studies are exploring how MANTRA is similar to, and different from, the original Maudsley Method and considering whether this new adaptation may benefit adolescents.

You might be thinking, “hold on, a treatment originally developed for adolescents with anorexia nervosa then adapted for adults with anorexia nervosa might now be adapted for adolescents with anorexia nervosa?”

It is somewhat confusing, however, treatment modalities are consistently gathering information and inspiration from one another to move effectiveness to the next level.

First, let’s explore the MANTRA Method to understand how it differs from the original Maudsley Method.

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MANTRA

MANTRA was created on the foundational belief that personality traits such as obsessive compulsive tendencies, perfectionism, and anxious-avoidance increase an individual’s risk of developing and perpetuating anorexia nervosa.

The treatment looks at anorexia nervosa from a cognitive interpersonal maintenance model, also taking into account “(1) impairments in the socio-emotional domain like the avoidance of emotions and reduced skills in social processing, (2) an inflexible, perfectionistic and detail-orientated thinking style, (3) pro-anorexia beliefs (positive beliefs about the value or function of the illness or particular symptoms, like ‘AN keeps me safe’ or ‘AN gives me control’) and (4) unfavorable communication styles of parents or close others [1].”

MANTRA treatment is manualized and is expected to take between 20 to 40 sessions.

The difference between the Maudsley Method and MANTRA are not that they are different treatment modalities but that the MANTRA method focuses on specific behavioral and psychological perspectives of anorexia nervosa whereas the Maudsley Method details the parental involvement.

MANTRA & Adolescents

A recent study considered the efficacy of MANTRA if used with adolescents, specifically considering the aspects of MANTRA that adolescents may respond well to.

For example, MANTRA, being manualized, involves a workbook that patients receive. The patient and their therapist work together to choose which workbook themes are applicable to their disorder [1].

MANTRA also encourages active contribution and participation from patients.

Researchers believe that “the possibility of taking responsibility and making active decisions during the therapeutic process could enhance motivation and self-efficacy which is very important for adolescents, as they strive for autonomy and independence during their normal pubertal development [1].”

Flower in India

MANTRA also uses Motivational Interviewing techniques to “enhance the patient’s intrinsic motivation for recovery,” which can help adolescents in combating eating disorders long-term by finding motivation for a recovery-focused life [1].”

MANTRA involves many writing tasks and researchers “assume that especially young people with AN could benefit from expressing their thoughts and feelings in writing rather than verbally. Writing tasks may not only allow adolescents to take a broader perspective on their illness, but may also foster cognitive restructuring, reduce emotional avoidance and help generate new solutions [1].”

Finally, MANTRA focuses on identity exploration which is important to adolescent development.

Study Results

As research is ever-evolving, the above-mentioned study only explored the “protocol for a study examining the feasibility, acceptability and efficacy of this new treatment program [1].”

This study points out the aspects of MANTRA that are proven to be important to address when treating adolescent anorexia nervosa.

Hopefully, this study will be conducted to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how MANTRA can truly benefit adolescent anorexia nervosa treatment.


Resources

[1] Wittek, T. et al. (2021). The Maudsley model of anorexia nervosa treatment for adolescents and young adults (MANTRa): a study protocol for a multicenter cohort study. Journal of Eating Disorders, 9:33.


About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published May 3, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on May 3, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC