Eating disorders program now available to young adults

- By Krista Conger

eating disorders

The Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital is expanding to treat young adults ages 18 to 21. The change allows the program to offer decades of experience in developing and applying new treatments to older adolescents and college students.

'I am delighted that Packard Children's Eating Disorders Program can now treat our undergraduate age group,' said Naomi Brown, PhD, an eating disorders treatment specialist at Stanford's Vaden Health Center for students. 'It's wonderful to know that we can refer our students with eating disorders who need a higher level of care to this renowned program.'

Eating disorders are often thought of as a uniquely adolescent problem. But, as Brown indicates, the condition can linger into or even begin in young adulthood. Packard Children's has coupled the longest continuously running inpatient eating disorders program in the Bay Area with an outpatient program that coordinates medical and psychiatric treatment. Through the years, the program has helped thousands of patients.

'We provide the most advanced, most effective treatments available,' said child psychiatrist James Lock, MD, PhD. Lock, who is the program's psychiatric director, pioneered a family-based treatment known as the Maudsley method in 2001 and published the first treatment manual using this approach.

'We're very family and developmentally oriented, and able to understand and address the differences between what a 9- versus a 14- versus a 21-year-old patient will need. It's a blame-free, solution-focused approach,' said Lock.

He and his colleagues tailor their therapies to the specific family dilemmas, age and circumstances of each patient. Although hospitalization was the norm in years past, the team has found that many patients benefit from maintaining their social and academic connections while undergoing treatment.

'Lengthy hospitalizations used to be common,' said Lock, 'because we had no effective, research-based treatments. Now we know that it's much more developmentally healthy to keep these kids in the community if at all possible and to involve their family in the re-feeding and recovery process.' Physicians at the Eating Disorders Program carefully monitor the medical status of outpatients to ensure they stay medically safe while undergoing treatment.

Ongoing research has been part of the eating disorders program since its inception. In addition to a large-scale comparison of family-based and individually-oriented treatment, Lock and his colleagues are researching two types of family therapy - one focused on symptoms and weight restoration, and one on family processes. They are also conducting a recently funded study to investigate the effectiveness of a treatment called Cognitive Remediation Therapy that targets the thinking style of patients with eating disorders.

'CRT is a highly innovative approach to anorexia nervosa,' said Lock. The study also includes additional treatment using cognitive and interpersonal therapy. Subjects enrolled in the study receive treatment free of charge.

Other research projects focus on brain imaging in eating-disordered patients, the management of osteoporosis in anorexia nervosa, how adolescent sufferers use Internet sites that promote eating disorders and how differences in gender and ethnicity affect eating disorder symptoms.

People interested in learning more about the CRT study should contact Judy Beenhakker at 723-7885. Those wishing to learn more about all of the program's clinical treatments should contact Suzanne Ely at 498-4468.

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