Last updated on October 2018

Family Therapy and Anorexia Nervosa : Which is the Best Approach?


Brief description of study

The aim of this study is to evaluate whether the implementation of Multiple Family Therapy (MFT) within a multi-disciplinary treatment program for Anorexia Nervosa (AN) in adolescence is at least as effective in terms of clinical Body Mass Index evolution as single Systemic Family Therapy (SyFT) after 12 months of treatment. We expect that these two techniques will not differ in terms of global efficacy, but that MFT could be more suitable for certain profiles who may be less responsive to SyFT.

Detailed Study Description

While family therapy is considered to have proved itself, its efficacy has been tested with reference to individual therapy by several teams of researchers or in addition to an overall treatment program. Few studies however have compared different types of family studies, and these studies were often on small samples. In addition, efficacy in terms of remission at 12-18 months was below 50% for large samples, and whatever the technique envisaged. Consequently, there is a need for exploration of this type of care provision. It is in this context, and also on account of budget considerations, to avoid hospitalizations, that the Maudsley team developed MFT for AN in the form of intensive day-care. The system is open to debate (there is a selection of highly motivated subjects able to suspend family and professional activities for some 20 days a year, and to find accommodation close to the hospital, and ready to relinquish other types of follow-up. However, MFT is, according to its advocates (families, caregivers) a therapeutic tool that is effective and appreciated by families. Other teams have therefore adapted it to care practices in France, and suited it to children, adolescents or adult in ambulatory care. In addition, we are aware that our care program is not satisfactory (fewer than half the subjects are cured after 12 to 18 months of treatment) and hence perfectible. We would like to use MFT, but this approach, particularly in ambulatory setting, has never been evaluated in comparison with another type of therapy in a randomized trial. We therefore wish to perform a randomized controlled trial to assess the contribution of MFT to the treatment of AN in comparison with SyFT.

The project is original in that, for the first time, it sets out to assess MFT in adolescent AN in ambulatory care in reference to SyFT, to estimate cost parameters relating to the two techniques, and also to identify the profiles of the best responders according to patient characteristics.

Family therapy will be established either after first half of hospitalization (half way to weight gain fixed for discharge), or when the patient seen in consultation is in a stable clinical state with no indication for hospitalization.

Patient will be randomized to MFT or SyFT after agreement to take part in the study. Randomization will be stratified on care provision status at inclusion (ambulatory or hospitalized - the latter being a possible selection bias according to severity) and therapies will start in the month following the randomization.

Patients and their families will have one session a month MFT ou SyFT during 12 months.

Evaluations will take place at the end of therapy at 12 months, then at the 6 months follow-up. Evaluators will be blind to the treatment group and will use a standardized research questionnaire.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03350594

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Recruitment Status: Open


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