Program Counsels Families of Patients With Eating Disorders

LYON, France — Since 2020, the Lyon Public Hospitals Referral Center for Anorexia and Eating Disorders (CREATyon) has offered counseling services for patients’ families and for siblings. Diane Morfin, MD, child psychiatrist, and Perrine Bertrand, psychologist, explained to Medscape what these support services entail.

Counseling for families

CREATyon is an assessment and counseling center for persons with anorexia and eating disorders located at Pierre Wertheimer Hospital in Lyon, France. “Patients come on referral from a healthcare professional and are assessed and then referred on for outpatient or inpatient care. We are a support facility,” clarified Bertrand. In France, nearly 900,000 people suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. These disorders particularly affect adolescent girls. The center currently sees 250 families a year, and the number of requests is increasing.

In 2020, the center started providing counseling services for patients’ families; These are offered after three initial assessment appointments. Counseling is provided in one or more sessions, either with the parents alone or together with the siblings but without the patient present. Bertrand elaborated, “The idea behind this counseling with a psychologist or a dietitian is for families to share their feelings about how they are coping with the situation, how things are for them, what the most complicated situations are, et cetera. without the patient present so that they can speak freely and ask their questions without the patient being at center stage.”

Support Groups for Siblings

Healthcare professionals explain to the family how the eating disorder works, how it is triggered, and how it persists over time. “We help them to stop feeling guilty and to understand how to team up with us against the disorder. We discuss ways to adjust in daily life, particularly at mealtime,” stressed Bertrand. When brothers and sisters are present, they are asked how they are coping with the situation. “Siblings are rarely included in care, and fears such as, ‘Can I get it?” and ‘Can you die from it?,’ often arise,” commented Bertrand. About 20 families have been supported in this way since 2020.

To help siblings more specifically, the center has also set up sharing times for brothers and sisters. They meet in groups of eight, during school vacations. “We offer one group for 7- to 13-year-olds and one for 14- to-25-year-olds. The goal is to bring together children who are experiencing similar situations to share their feelings, to answer their questions, and to talk about the role of brothers or sisters, which is to inspire a zest for life. Approximately 80 young people have benefited from these sharing groups.

Group Workshops

To supplement these two support services, the center is going to offer group workshops for families beginning in July. “We will be setting up sessions for patients and their parents to learn about the disorder so they will have a common understanding of the issues involved in the causes and consequences of the eating disorder,” said Morfin. In addition, another group workshop, this one aimed at parents, will be organized with a dietitian on meal management. Four to six families will be able to take part in these workshops. “The questions that come up most often are about meals: how to manage them and how to deal with episodes of anger that parents struggle to hold in. So, it seemed appropriate,” explained Morfin, “to offer specific support on this topic. “

This article was translated from the Medscape French edition.

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