Eating Disorder Treatment for Canadian Youth

Young Lady in Group therapy after Returning to Eating Disorder Treatment

This article topic about eating disorder treatment for Canadian youths may seem oddly specific to you, but its inspiration is incredibly relevant. A study was published in the Journal of Eating Disorders in 2020 focused solely on providing treatment guidelines for clinicians treating youth with eating disorder diagnoses in Canada [1].

Eating disorders are a huge issue worldwide and affect up to 1 million Canadian citizens. Despite these overwhelming numbers and the frightening mortality rate for these disorders, study publishers noted that “no Canadian practice guidelines exist to facilitate treatment decisions [1].”

The United States currently has practice parameters for youth with eating disorders published by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Additionally, national guidelines are offered by the National Institute of Healthcare Excellence.

Even so, study publishers pointed out that many of these parameters focus on medical stabilization, and neglect psychotherapeutic/psychopharmacological approaches to eating disorder treatment [1].” This lack of guidance puts the onus on practitioners to determine what treatment practices they will use with their clients.

Specific treatment guidelines can be beneficial in achieving higher recovery rates, as treatment will remain more consistent throughout the country, and evidence-based treatments are more likely to be used.

Study publishers recommended the following guidelines for eating disorder treatment based on the examples of other treatment parameters worldwide and current research on evidence-based techniques.

Eating Disorder Treatment Options

Family-Based Treatment

The study found that much of the research provides strong evidence that family-based therapeutic interventions are highly effective in treating eating disorders.

Family-Based Treatment that involves parental involvement in refeeding proved most effective for treating Anorexia Nervosa. However, remission rates after Family-Based Therapy for Bulimia Nervosa were much higher than when individuals underwent Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [1].

It appears that family-based treatment strategies hold promise. However, it might require modification to improve long-term recovery rates and reduce remission rates.

Multi-Family Therapy

Eating Disorder Treatment talk therapyMulti-Family Therapy involves the treatment of numerous families, all joining together in treatment to overcome the challenge of supporting their loved one through their eating disorder.

The study indicated some success in the use of Multi-Family Therapy, particularly in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa. However, study publishers emphasize that more research is required before recommending Multi-Family Therapy in treatment guidelines.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is one of the most widely-known and evidence-based treatment methods for all mental health diagnoses and has proven to be incredibly effective in treating eating disorders. However, when compared to family-based treatments, some studies showed that, while effective, it is no more effective than the family-based treatments [1].

Similarly, remission rates did not differ drastically between the two treatment types. This acts as an important note to clinicians, and that CBT is an effective treatment. However, it is not the only effective treatment.

Other Noteworthy Treatments

The study examined the efficacy of other treatments and found mixed results.

  • Adolescent-focused therapy was shown to have similar results to Family-Based Treatment. However, family-based therapy seemed to have better outcomes at a 1-year follow-up [1].
  • Additionally, the study briefly mentions Dialectical Behavior Therapy, noting its promise as well as the fact that more research is required.

The overall intention of this study was to lay-out parameters for clinicians looking for guidance in treating eating disorders. The overall conclusion was the Family-Based Treatments, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatments show the most success during the treatment period and over time.

While this does not mean these treatments work for everyone, it is helpful to know especially if you are attempting to learn more about eating disorder treatment or refer a client to the appropriate services.


[1] Couturier, J. (2020). Canadian practice guidelines for the treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8:4.

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 15, 2020, on
Reviewed & Approved on May 15, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.