Our 15 year old has been out of hospital for about a month and is being treated using the Maudsley method. We are currently refeeding her.
She went to a therapist the week before she went into hospital and she really liked her. She hates the current therapists and feels she is getting no support for the awful feelings she is going through. Her dad and I believe in the Maudsley method and believe the psychologists when they say she will get better when she is refed. However, belief is one thing and the feeling that our little girl is suffering and we are not helping her is quite another. I suppose I'm asking is there anything we can do to provide more overt support to her while she is being refed? I don't want to undermine the treatment or go backwards because I'm feeling helpless but I'd hate to think that there was something we could have been doing to more actively assist in psychologically supporting her through this really difficult period.
Joy Jacobs, JD, PhD responds:
Clearly you are sensing your daughter’s feelings of isolation as the refeeding progresses. As you point out, moving forward with refeeding in some way requires that you ignore the demands of the eating disorder (and the suffering your daughter experiences from not being able to comply with the demands of the eating disorder). It can be tempting to modify the goals of refeeding when you see that your child is suffering. Refeeding is a tough process, not only for the individual with anorexia but for the entire family. It can be hard as a parent to stay focused with refeeding when you witness the misery that your child is experiencing psychologically. I would encourage you first to remind yourself (multiple times daily, if needed) that although your child appears to be suffering now, a chronic eating disorder would most likely bring with it a great deal more suffering. Your daughter’s current distress is hopefully in lieu of future, greater suffering.
That said, what concrete things would help her weather this process? First, let your daughter know that you are sympathetic to her feelings. This can go a long way toward alleviating feelings of resentment and isolation. Ask your daughter what things you could do that would help her to feel more comfortable during this process; explain that aspects related to refeeding are off limits but that other accommodations are possible. In addition, how about rallying siblings and close friends to invite your daughter to do favorite activities (movies, crafts, etc)? This may help to improve your daughter’s mood and provide an outlet for sharing with others and feeling more supported.