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January 2011



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Article Date: 07 Dec 2010 – 5:00 PST

A new intervention supporting the carers of people suffering anorexia nervosa is now being trialled at hospitals across the country.

The adult eating disorders team at South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust, led by Prof. Janet Treasure, recognised that, while parents and partners are the most important source of help for someone with anorexia nervosa, the pressures of caring can lead to the formation of damaging patterns of behaviour. These behaviours cause distress to both parties – perpetuating anorexia nervosa symptoms and often requiring carers themselves to seek psychological treatment.

Expert Carers Helping Others (ECHO) is a guided self-help intervention that uses volunteer ‘coaches’ with direct experience of managing anorexia nervosa – either as carers whose children have recovered or are in recovery, or people who have recovered from the condition themselves – to optimise carers’ effectiveness in promoting recovery.

The volunteer ‘coaches’ have been trained in the new Maudsley Model and motivational interviewing techniques so they can offer telephone coaching sessions to carers across the country. The sessions aim to increase self-care in carers, encourage calm, compassionate communication and offer support managing difficult behaviours.

Professor Janet Treasure, director of the eating disorder service at SLAM, said: “Our coaches have had to work through their own difficult issues and do a tremendous job containing and channelling their experiences to help carers around the country. Most have had no professional training, but their experience is proving invaluable and motivates them to attend our training and coaching sessions. Their generosity of spirit and their quest for knowledge and skills is formidable”

The guided self-help intervention also includes a book (Skills Based Learning for Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder) and 5 DVDs. The effectiveness of the intervention is being tested in a multi-site (15 inpatient units) study involving patients and carers from hospital units all around England.

One coach said: “Janet Treasure and her team helped me and my family turn things around when we were struggling with an eating disorder. I was pleased to train as a coach so I could give something back. The telephone coaching can be a real life line for carers struggling to cope with an eating disorder on their own.”

The new Maudsley Model is a development of the ‘Maudsley Model’ or ‘Maudsley Approach’ – a family therapy pioneered at the Maudsley Hospital in the 1980’s to treat anorexia nervosa in adolescents and now used across the world to treat a wide-range of mental health conditions. Family members and carers – most commonly parents and partners – are an important source of help for someone with anorexia nervosa where isolation is a key part of the problem. Over time, the Maudsley Hospital’s eating disorders team has used family therapy so successfully to treat adolescents suffering anorexia nervosa that it has reduced the need for people to go into hospital to around 20% of the national average.

The ECHO team is also setting up a new project to work with adolescent outpatients around the UK to expand the network of carers/ex-service users who are willing to give their time to help others. The team are working in partnership with BEAT on a project called Empowering parents so that this form of help will be available throughout the country.

The awards will be presented by Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society on Monday 6th December at the Houses of Parliament. And special thanks go to Gill Todd, Pam Macdonald , Dr Anna Crane and Grainne Smith who developed the curriculum, and training course.

Fact file

– 1 in 100 UK women aged between 15 and 30, suffer anorexia nervosa (Mind) Approx 11 people in 100,000 develop anorexia nervosa each year (Beat)
– 1-2% of young women are thought to be anorexic at any one time (Beat)
– About 1% of 16 to18 year olds have anorexia (Royal College of Psychiatrists)
– About 40% of people with anorexia recover completely, but around 30% of continue to experience the illness long-term (Royal College of Psychiatrists)
– Approximately 10% of cases of anorexia arise in men
– Around 5% of cases of anorexia will be fatal (Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS) Service)

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust


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