Maudsley Method Family Therapy

What is the Maudsley Method?

The Maudsley Method, also known as Family-Based Treatment, can be characterized by an intensive outpatient treatment where parents are integrated as an active and positive role.  The primary purposes of including parents in this approach are to incorporate and encourage participation in their child’s recovery journey.  This therapy method was originally formulated by Christopher Dare and his colleagues at the Maudsley Hospital in London in 1985.  Formerly proposed as a method for the treatment of anorexia nervosa in adolescents, it was devised as therapy that would occur in the home environment with therapeutic supervision by a trained professional.

Since then, the Maudsley Family Therapy approach has been adapted for bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and for older patients as well.  Generally, this treatment has three phases which occur over a period of 6-12 months, directed by a family-based therapist, and which involve the entire family in weekly sessions.  Parents are guided in the fundamentals of helping their loved one eat (and/or prevent purging and over-exercising) and siblings are supported in collaborating with the patient.  Sessions periodically entail a family meal under the guidance of a therapist who can assist in recognizing the various dynamics of the family around the meal.

Application of the Maudsley Method

The Maudsley Family Approach can be applied to the following:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating
  • Childhood Obesity
  • Adolescents
  • Older Patients

Phases of the Maudsley Method

The Three Phases of the Maudsley Family Approach are as follows:

  • Phase I – Weight Restoration:  In Phase I, a professionally trained therapist concentrates on the various effects associated with anorexia nervosa, particularly physiological, cognitive, and emotional.  A major focus of this phase is the restoration of the patient’s weight and the “re-feeding” component.  A crucial psychological feature of this primary phase is substantiating the illness.
  • Phase II – Returning control over eating to the adolescent:  Phase II encompasses the patient learning to progressively regain control over their individual eating habits again.  This typically commences when the patient’s weight has reached approximately 87% of their ideal body weight.
  • Phase III – Establishing healthy identity:  This phase is initiated when the patient is sufficiently able to sustain their weight above 95% of ideal body weight independently and refrains from engaging in restrictive eating behaviors.  Focuses of treatments are primarily on the psychological consequences the eating disorder has had on the patient and the establishment of a healthier identity.

Uses of the Maudsley Method

The Maudsley Approach was specifically designed as a therapy method for the treatment of anorexia nervosa, though has since been adapted to treat multiple eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa and binge eating.  This method has demonstrated to be highly effective when applied in cases of adolescents suffering from an eating disorder for a relatively short period of time, specifically less than three years.  This family-based treatment can be an instrumental part of recovery from an eating disorder provided that parents/family of the individual are allowed to and willing to be an active role in treatment.  In addition to the Maudsley Hospital in London, several other eating disorder treatment programs are currently implementing this method as a integral part of their recovery process.

Articles on Eating Disorder Treatment Therapies

Last Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 25, 2012

Page last updated: June 12, 2012
Published on, Eating Disorders Information