Information for the public

Bulimia nervosa: treatment for children and young people

Bulimia nervosa: treatment for children and young people

Family therapy

Many children and young people with bulimia find it helpful to have a talking therapy that family members or carers can take part in too. This is known as family therapy. It involves working with a practitioner (for example a therapist), and allows you to explore how bulimia has affected you and how your family can support you to get better.

Your family therapy should usually last for 6 months and you should expect to have between 18 and 20 sessions. You should also have regular meetings with your practitioner on your own.

What does family therapy involve?

To start with, your practitioner will want to get to know you and your family and build up a good relationship with you all. Your therapy will involve:

  • helping you and your parents or carers work together to help you get into regular eating habits, and to change any behaviours you use to try to control your weight

  • showing your family how to support you – it is not about blaming anyone for your bulimia

  • helping you to stick to your new eating habits (this is called relapse prevention).

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Another treatment you might be offered is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). If you're offered this you will normally have 18 sessions with a practitioner over 6 months. You will also usually have some sessions with your parents or carers.

What does cognitive behavioural therapy involve?

The therapy will help you think about how bulimia affects your life, and motivate you to change your eating habits. Your practitioner will encourage you to set your own personal goals for treatment, and to learn how to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings. When you are feeling better, you will also learn how to avoid problems with bulimia in the future.